Barcelona are reportedly "all but resigned" to the notion that Manchester City will win the race to sign budding Ajax star Frenkie de Jong. The Blaugrana "are unwilling to match what City are willing to pay" for the 21-year-old, according to Goal's Ignasi Oliva and Sam Lee.
Barca's hope rests on De Jong's desire to move to the Nou Camp and play in the same team as Lionel Messi. However, this lure reportedly won't prove sufficient to deter De Jong from travelling to Manchester.
It's why Oliva and Lee also noted Barcelona will turn to Paris Saint-Germain's Adrien Rabiot as an alternative.
The Citizens are in a strong position thanks to a series of talks with Eredivisie giants Ajax. City sporting director Txiki Begiristain has met with Ajax director Marc Overmars over a potential deal.
City could sign De Jong soon and loan him back to Ajax for the rest of this campaign. It would be a win-win scenario for Ajax. They'd fetch a hefty fee for a promising young player who's unlikely to see out his career in Amsterdam, but the side would still have him for 2019.
Ajax need the versatile midfielder to help maintain a title challenge in the Netherlands. The club is five points adrift of PSV Eindhoven in the table, while Ajax are also second in Group E of the UEFA Champions League and have a solid chance of qualifying for the Round of 16.
City find themselves in the box seat for De Jong after David Anderson of the Daily Mirror reported Ajax will want £75 million for their prized asset.
It's a fee City would be more than willing to pay for a 21-year-old who's already playing beyond his years at both club and international level:
De Jong would be an asset at City because he has the technique and composure to fit manager Pep Guardiola's adherence to stylish, patient possession-based play. His ability to conduct passing from either a deep or advanced role would give Guardiola a midfielder he could slot into more than one key position.
De Jong may represent an eventual successor for 32-year-old schemer David Silva. The Netherlands international may also fit as a deep-lying playmaker who could finally give City an alternative to holding midfielder Fernandinho.