Barcelona appear to be edging closer to the capture of Arthur after Gremio manager Renato admitted he doesn't expect the midfielder to return to the club.
Speculation has been rampant since the 21-year-old was photographed wearing a Barcelona shirt earlier in December, as shared by AS:
AS English @English_AS
Barcelona target Arthur photographed in club's shirt https://t.co/MiKdRc0kwf https://t.co/b0NeVKSmIf2017-12-2 10:09:24
Per Globoesporte (h/t OneFootball.com), the Blaugrana apologised to Gremio, who were furious with Barcelona, but that hasn't halted the momentum of the deal. Just days after the photo was posted online, the player himself said he had spoken with the Catalans, per Calciomercato.com.
And as reported by Sport, Renato has also weighed in on the move:
"The pressure has been huge, that's normal. If he will continue? Sincerely, I find that difficult to see. It makes us happy to have a player that's being watched by European sides.
"Maybe we don't have a player of his quality but we have others who can replace him. He's helped us a lot, but I think it will be hard to keep him."
Arthur has drawn comparisons to Barcelona great Andres Iniesta for his passing ability and short-area quickness. Like the Spaniard, he's at his best when conducting play from central midfield, gliding into dangerous spaces with seemingly no effort.
Arthur has been excellent for Gremio this season, leading the team to their third-ever Copa Libertadores title. The Brazilian side will compete in the FIFA Club World Cup as a result, but according to Sport, the midfielder will miss out on the tournament due to injury.
While he's still raw, Arthur's progress in the last two seasons has been impressive, and there's a strong belief his ceiling would justify a heavy price tag.
EiF shared this short video demonstrating the huge impact he can have on matches:
Arthur vs. Lanús Gremio’s midfielder had to literally be fouled off the pitch in order to be stopped. One of Barcelona’s top targets, Brazil’s midfield maestro Arthur was voted the best player in the Libertadores final as he ran the show for Gremio. https://t.co/E1Rdtm9ZQ82017-12-1 16:11:42
His season numbers suggest he should fit in nicely at the Camp Nou, per FootballTalentScout:
21-year-old Gremio midfielder Arthur in Brasileirão this season: 27 games 1 goal 3 yellow cards 2002 passes 82.2 passes per 90 93.1% pass accuracy 29 interceptions 50 tackles won 22 key passes Future Barcelona player? https://t.co/1ZZLMezRAv2017-11-28 19:20:29
Arthur would not be signed as an instant-impact player but rather as an investment for the future. That doesn't mean he wouldn't feature at the start of his Barcelona career, although the Catalans have shown caution with younger players of late.
Iniesta is 33 years old, and while he's still a pivotal player, a replacement is sorely needed, both to spell the veteran and for the future. The Catalans could do far worse than Arthur, even if there's always a risk involved with spending on South American stars with no European experience.