Barca looking to use Deco to get through to client Raphinha; Gavi and Araujo are both targets for Premier League clubs amid contract disputes; Ousmane Dembele could end up staying at Barcelona
Thursday 24 March 2022 19:18, UK
Barcelona are among the clubs that want to sign Leeds winger Raphinha this summer, Sky Sports News has learned.
The club are hoping a strong relationship with his agent Deco - their former player - will help persuade him to join them over Premier League clubs.
Talks have been ongoing between Leeds and Raphinha over a new contract since last year, but he is yet to sign the terms on offer.
There was significant interest in him from other English top-flight sides in January but a move did not materialise.
His current deal runs until 2024 so Barca would have to pay a transfer fee to land him regardless of whether Leeds remain in the Premier League or not.
Jesse Marsch's side are deep in the relegation fight, seven points clear of the drop-zone with eight games left, but having played at least a game more than those below them.
Barcelona, whose significant financial plight has been eased somewhat by a new sponsorship deal with Spotify, will hope Raphinha's valuation reduces if Leeds go down.
The Catalans do expect to have a limited pool of cash available to them for some purchases this summer, and hope it will be topped up by player sales.
Ivory Coast midfielder Franck Kessie has already agreed to join Barca on a free transfer this summer from AC Milan.
And Barca have registered their interest in Paulo Dybala now that he has decided not to renew his contract at Juventus and will be a free agent on July 1.
The door has also been reopened for Ousmane Dembele to agree a new contract at the Nou Camp after his return to form under manager Xavi.
Vice-president Rafa Yuste said this week that "if Dembele continues to feel comfortable, then we can meet his agents and he could stay", as his current deal runs closer to expiring on June 30.
This is a change of tone from the club after they tried to force him out in January amid a stalemate and offer which included a significant pay-cut, and was made at the same time the club were signing Ferran Torres from Manchester City.
Despite this treatment, Dembele and his representatives are willing to eventually meet with the Barca hierarchy and listen to a new proposal, as there is nothing agreed yet regarding the player's future and any other clubs.
He is free to speak to clubs outside Spain and both Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea showed interest in January.
The France international is enjoying his football again and registering some of the best attacking stats in Europe. Dembele has the best assists-per-minute ratio in the top-five leagues this season, the most assists in Europe since the turn of the year, and the second-most in La Liga all season.
Premier League clubs are also said to be monitoring the contract disputes ongoing between Barca and players Ronald Araujo and Gavi, as well as Dembele.
Centre-back Araujo's current deal expires in 2024 and he is currently one of the lowest-paid players in the squad despite establishing himself as first-choice alongside Gerard Pique this season.
Barca are said to have made a final 'take-it-or-leave-it' offer to the 23-year-old, which would triple his current B-team-level salary, but sources in Spain have told Sky Sports News that Premier League clubs would be willing to pay him more.
The 17-year-old midfielder sensation Gavi finds himself in a similar situation, with just over two years left on his youth terms, and in disagreement over his first pro-deal at the club.
Barcelona are said to value him as an academy graduate that has recently broken into the first-team, but the player feels he should be on par with Spain international regulars, which he has become since making his debut for Luis Enrique's vibrant young team last October.
Gavi's situation is also said to be being monitored closely by big clubs across Europe, including from the Premier League, although Liverpool are understood to have no plans to sign him despite reports in Spain that they are interested.
Barca vice-president Yuste said this week: "We are working to the best of our abilities to keep Gavi and Araujo at the club. I am optimistic. The players are happy here."
Sky Sports' Jamie Redknapp speaking at the Nations League final in October 2021:
"Spain have a player in Gavi, I want to see his birth certificate! You cannot be this good at 17, I'm sorry. He is absolutely phenomenal.
"One of the greatest midfielders I've ever seen live is Iniesta, [because of] the way he used to receive the ball on the half turn, just like [Gavi does]. He let the ball run past his body and players try to get tight to him, and although he was small he had the big frame and big legs, he somehow managed to roll away with players. He had these in-built wing mirrors that all the great midfielders have.
"He is so talented this kid [Gavi]. He's brave, he's good on the ball, he takes up brilliant positions. He's so good, so good. To be 17 years of age and be playing in this sort of company, I'm just in awe of him and I love watching this kid play.
"He's got everything, he absolutely has. He's got physicality. What a joy and what a player."