Barcelona have reportedly identified Atletico Madrid midfielder, Saul Niguez as an alternative to Marco Verratti.

Spanish publication AS have reported that Barcelona are identifying alternatives as their pursuit of Marco Verratti starts to get complicated. The Catalan club are set to turn their attention towards Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez if they fail to land the PSG superstar.

Saul Niguez is regarded as one of the most promising young players in Europe for some time now. The 22-year-old rapidly progressed through the ranks before making his first-team debut at the nascent age of 17 in 2012.

A season-long spell at Rayo Vallecano followed in 2013/14 post which Saul quickly established himself as a key player in Diego Simeone’s first-team setup at the Vicente Calderon. In fact, he is an integral part of the core group of players that El Cholo has depended on in the last few seasons.

2016/17 was another fruitful campaign for the player as he made a whopping 53 appearances across all competitions for Atletico while also chipping in with nine goals and four assists. And his exploits haven’t gone unnoticed with some of the biggest clubs in Europe circling around him.

Manchester United were heavily linked with Saul ahead of the winter transfer window before they cooled off their interest in him, and now Barcelona have entered the fray to sign him this summer.

2016/17 turned out to be a below par campaign for the Blaugrana as they relinquished their La Liga title to bitter rivals Real Madrid while also seeing them win the Champions League title, having bowed out of the tournament in the quarterfinals.

As a result, the Catalan club are keen to make reinforcements this summer in order to climb back to the top of Spanish and European football. And midfield is one of the areas that Ernesto Valverde is keen to strengthen.

The newly appointed Barcelona boss is currently has the likes of Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic, Andre Gomes and Denis Suarez as his options in midfield. But while summer signings Gomes and Suarez have failed to live up to their billing so far, Rakitic blew hot and cold over the course of the season.

On top of that, Iniesta is nearing the end of his glittering career, thereby accentuating the need for Barcelona to rejuvenate their midfield options. With that in mind, the Catalans have been targetting Marco Verratti over a move in the summer transfer window.

Barcelona bound? (Photo courtesy - Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Barcelona bound? (Photo courtesy – Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

However, there are several complications in Barcelona’s bid to broker a deal for the Italian midfielder, with the transfer fee being a primary concern as it could go as high as €100 million. Therefore, Barcelona have also been identifying alternatives in case they fail to land their number one target.

Saul has, thus, emerged as a candidate to reinforce the midfield at Camp Nou. In fact, the Barcelona have been following his progress for a long time now, and had scouts present at almost every game that he played in the recently concluded season.

The club’s technical secretary, Robert Fernandez, too, is set to run the rule over him during the European Under-21 Championship. With Lionel Messi also reportedly being an admirer of the player’s talents, it looks like a possible summer move could be in the offing.

Atletico’s transfer ban, though, could prove to be an obstace in Saul’s pursuit and it remains to be seen if Barcelona are able to negotiate a deal with Los Rojiblancos, should they fail to land Verratti.

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