Barcelona after next Rakitic: Fabián Ruiz, Saúl, Bentancur...
With Ivan Rakitic seemingly on his way out of the club, Barcelona are preparing to bring in a player capable of fulfilling a similar midfield role.
Signing a successor to striker Luis Suárez remains the priority at Barcelona, but, with Ivan Rakitic heading towards the exit, the LaLiga giants are also busy looking for a player who can fulfil a similar role to the Croat: a box-to-box midfielder capable of looking after the ball and linking the play effectively.
De Jong to take over from Busquets as Barcelona anchorman
Although Frenkie de Jong was signed from Ajax last summer, Barça have earmarked the Dutchman as Sergio Busquets' long-term replacement at anchorman.
Fabián, Bentancur and Saúl all on LaLiga giants' radar
Fabián Ruiz is one of Barça's preferred targets. The Napoli player, who is valued at 60m euros by the specialist website Transfermarkt.com, has been on the club's radar for several years. If they do move for Fabián, however, they may well face stiff competition from Real Madrid. Two other midfielders being tracked by the Camp Nou club are Rodrigo Bentancur and Saúl Ñíguez.
Bentancur, who is valued at 35m, is struggling for game time at current side Juventus, and possesses playing characteristics that are to Barça's liking. Over the summer, the 22-year-old's name came up in talks held between Barça and Juve over Rakitic, who Fabio Paratici, the Serie A champions' sporting director, was extremely keen to sign. Although nothing materialised from those negotiations, the Blaugrana have kept Bentancur in their thoughts.
It is likely to be significantly harder to persuade Atlético to sell Saúl, while the Spaniard would also come at a far higher cost. However, Barça's interest in the 24-year-old helps to underline the type of midfielder they seeking to bring in.
Barcelona struggling to produce similar midfielders
Among Barcelona chiefs, it is felt that this is exactly the kind of player that La Masía, the club's youth set-up, is finding it difficult to produce. The Catalans' most exciting academy prospects, Riqui Puig and Álex Collado, are both midfield operators of a very different nature.