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BARCELONA

Barcelona step up De Ligt talks after Umtiti injury setback

Barcelona step up De Ligt talks after Umtiti injury setback

ARIS MESSINIS

AFP

After the Frenchman's injury flared up again, Barça have to decide whether to buy a replacement in January or hold out for the Ajax youngster.

Barcelona have been left with a conundrum in central defence after it was confirmed Samuel Umtiti will play no further football in 2018 and could be out for considerably longer with a persistent knee injury: sign a direct replacement in January to cover for the France international or wait until the summer to make their move for Ajax and Netherlands centre half Matthijs de Ligt.

Barça have a long-standing interest in De Ligt, 19, but see him as a long-term project and are willing to wait until Ajax sporting director Marc Overmars, a former Camp Nou player, is ready to talk about a transfer. Overmars has previously stated that De Ligt and Frenkie de Jong, another Barça target, will be going nowhere until at least the end of the season.

Barça considering Ivanovic and Djené in short term

That has not prevented Barça from making overtures towards the player, with reports of a meeting between De Light and Camp Nou representatives a few weeks ago. However, there will be fierce competition for one of the most highly rated defenders in world football and Barça are more likely to wait until they have a free run at the defender than risk sparking a bidding war by annoying Overmars.

The defender has told Barça that he is excited about the prospect of playing there and will weight it up against other options,” Sport reported on Saturday, noting that De Ligt, the Ajax vice-captain, wants assurances about playing time before making a decision.

Meanwhile, Mundo Deportivo stated that Barça are also considering a short-term fix for Umtiti’s absence and have set their sights on Zenit defender Branislav Ivanovic and Getafe’s Djené Dakonam as potential cheap alternatives to provide cover until the end of the season.

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