Barcelona are ready to cash in on Alen Halilovic after he was deemed surplus to requirements ahead of next season, and club legend Xavi has given Italy midfielder Marco Verratti his stamp of approval.
According to Spanish daily Sport, the Blaugrana are open to offers for their Croatian starlet—currently on loan at Sporting Gijon—as they believe time spent elsewhere will benefit his development as a top-flight player.
The report dictates that Barca will unsurprisingly insist upon inserting a buy-back clause as part of any sale, meaning they would reserve the ability to bring the playmaker back to the Camp Nou at a later date.
The 19-year-old has started in nine of his 10 La Liga appearances for Sporting this season, scoring two goals, and has previously stated his desire to concentrate on his progress away from Barcelona, per Sport: "[Gijon coach Abelardo Fernandez] has helped me a lot, he speaks a lot to me. Sporting is a great club to improve, it's a great place to play."
It's an incredibly mature response from the teenager considering many youngsters might brag of their intention to break into the first team of their parent club, but Halilovic appears to have no delusions of grandeur.
Spanish football writer Sergi Dominguez recently picked him out as one of Barca's rising stars benefiting greatly from their time away from Luis Enrique's squad:
La Liga rivals Real Madrid have exercised similar options as recently as this summer, when they brought Casemiro and Lucas Vazquez back to the Bernabeu following spells at Porto and Espanyol, respectively.
The 2016-17 campaign may be considered too soon for Halilovic to have a grand impact for Barca, but there's no reason to suggest the Croatia international can't make his surge among their ranks at a later date.
Meanwhile, Xavi has spoken highly of Paris Saint-Germain star Verratti as a player who could slip into the Barcelona team thanks to his passing-oriented style fitting in with the Blaugrana ethos.
The Camp Nou icon—now at Qatari club Al Sadd—spoke at an Adidas launch in Paris last week, where he rated the 23-year-old as one of the best in the world in his trade, per Italian outlet Gazzetta World:
Verratti is an extraordinary footballer. He is on par with the midfielders at Barca.
He plays at a very high level at PSG and is having a fantastic season. There are few midfielders better than him. Verratti is one of the best in the world today.
Verratti likes to keep the ball and it’s very difficult to take it away from him. He also has a great short passing game as well as he can play it long.
He is even decisive in the final third where he can provide assists.
PSG's prodigy has been injured recently, but Squawka illustrated how his contributions prior to his setback helped Laurent Blanc's side climb to the top of Ligue 1:
Of course, Xavi's opinion is little more than speculation, but perhaps his comments will stoke the fire further after Verratti admitted Barca's summer interest was "flattering," per Goal's Marco Messina.
Halilovic's sale would allow Barcelona to move for players capable of having a more instantaneous impact on first-team matters, with Verratti among those who could offer an upgrade.