Medhi Benatia has suggested he'd be open to leaving Juventus in January unless his playing time under manager Massimiliano Allegri improves, saying "it's not a pleasant situation" at the Allianz Stadium.
Central defender Benatia has featured just five times this season and in only four of Juve's 11 league matches. He told La Stampa (h/t Football Italia) he's dedicated to the Bianconeri cause and is ready to be called upon but couldn't help hint a winter transfer could be in the offing:
"I'm struggling playing a game every now and then.
"Last year I did well because I had more consistency, unfortunately I don't have it this year. It's part of my job, and I work to always be ready, but it's not a pleasant situation.
"It's normal that I'm not enjoying it, I'm 31 and I want to play as much as possible.
"January? Let's see what happens, how I'm used, if Juve still need me, if [coach Max] Allegri wants me…
"I'm available to the team, as long as I'm here I'll give my all. If I'm needed in the Champions League I'll be ready."
Mundo Deportivo (h/t Calciomercato.com) reported Benatia is one of the defenders being considered by Barcelona ahead of the January transfer window, with the Catalans short on options at the back.
Barca centre-back Samuel Umtiti has been sidelined due to injury since late September, and sports writer Muhammad Butt noted Gerard Pique's failure to perform to his usual standards at times this season:
Benatia played the full 90 minutes in Saturday's 3-1 home win over Cagliari, although he was fortunate not to give away a penalty for handball when the video assistant referee cleared him.
The Morocco international was first loaned to Juventus from Bayern Munich for the 2016-17 campaign and made the move permanent in May 2017. However, competition for a place in central defence at the Old Lady is notoriously stiff.
Among those jostling for the same spots in defence are Italy stalwarts Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci, who moved back to Turin in the summer following a season with AC Milan.
That's without mentioning up-and-coming Daniele Rugani, 24. Mattia Caldara was another promising asset who left as part of the deal to bring Bonucci back to Turin, with him and Gonzalo Higuain (on loan) departing for the San Siro.
There was furore among some fans in the summer after Bonucci was brought back following his stint with the Rossoneri, although blogger Arjun Pradeep recently said he's a class above the likes of Benatia:
Arjun Pradeep @IndianRegista
@1987Azzurri @ai121090 He plays in a Juventus shirt and is one of our two best central defenders. Targeting and scapegoating him can lead to a drop in his performances, also the team. + Benatia/Rugani are not as good as him in this system. Means it leads to Juve failing as a whole. I don't want that.
The Bianconeri may be willing to let the player leave in winter if they agree with that assessment and Benatia is deemed surplus to requirements while he pursues the exit door.
However, the Italian titans may want to keep hold of Benatia in the knowledge that Barzagli, 37, is in the last year of his contract and could leave when his deal expires in the summer.