Could Iñigo Martínez replace Piqué at Barcelona in 2023?
Barcelona don’t expect to sign Martínez if they get a deal for Jules Koundé over the line - but the Athletic Club defender is seen as an option for next year.
Barring any surprises, Iñigo Martínez won’t join Barcelona this summer if Jules Koundé arrives at the Camp Nou. The Catalans don’t think it’s possible to sign both central defenders at the same time.
Martínez could join Barça to fill gap left by Piqué
However, Barça head coach Xavi Hernández is a fan of Martínez and has him on his list of potential recruits for the 2023/24 season. The Spain defender is out of contract at Athletic Club next summer, so he can negotiate a free transfer to another club from 1 January 2023.
Martínez, who has had contact with Barça and has a very good relationship with the Spain internationals in the Blaugrana squad, especially Sergio Busquets, has been told there is a possibility that Gerard Piqué will no longer be at Barça in 2023/24, paving the way for the Athletic player to join.
Xavi and his backroom team will also monitor the development of Andreas Christensen and Eric García. If they see shortcomings, Barça will try to sign Martínez.
Player keen for clarity ahead of World Cup season
However, Martínez would ideally like some clarity over his future as he heads into a fundamental year in his career, with a World Cup coming up in November. If he remains at Athletic but continues to stall on renewing his contract, this would lead to an uneasy situation that could have a negative affect on his season.
Extending the 31-year-old’s contract is a priority for recently-elected Athletic president Jon Uriarte, so Martínez will have to decide whether he wants to ward off the new club chief’s advances and wait until January.
As things stand, it looks like the player will this summer narrowly miss out on a move to Barcelona for a second time. On the first occasion, in 2017, his arrival was scuppered by dressing-room support for then-Barça defender Javier Mascherano. Now, the signing of Koundé looks like getting in his way.