Barcelona manager Xavi has broken his silence on a player whose contract status could soon spark a bidding war between Man Utd and Man City.
Barcelona appeared to get themselves back on track in the winter window. Ferran Torres, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Adama Traore were all signed to give their forward line a much needed jolt.
However, it is at the other end of the pitch in which they must next extinguish a fire.
Centre-half Ronald Araujo has quickly become a major player at the Camp Nou. The 22-year-old Uruguayan has featured in every La Liga game for Barcelona this season in which he has been fit. The vast majority of those outings have been from the off.
However, Araujo’s current deal runs out in 2023 and Friday’s Euro Paper Talk revealed the two Manchester giants are looking to prise him away from Spain.
United are thought to be the frontrunners for the 22-year-old, with Marca stating that a big offer for the player is incoming.
However, talk of a switch to City was ramped up this week after Pep Guardiola was pictured having dinner with Araujo’s agent Edmundo Kabchi.
Barcelona finances leave them vulnerable
Both of their hopes stem from Araujo’s contract status. Barcelona wish to retain Araujo’s services, but their prior financial problems have thus far prevented them from lodging an adequate offer.
However, in quotes carried by Fabrizio Romano, Barca boss Xavi has addressed the looming issue.
Xavi insisted extending Araujo’s stay – and thus resisting interest from Manchester – is a “priority”. Furthermore, Xavi declared Barcelona will aim to tie Araujo down to new terms “as soon as possible.”
“Araújo’s contract extension is one of the priorities,” said Xavi. “We definitely want to extend his contract as soon as possible.
“Araújo is giving us a lot and he is highly esteemed in the club and the dressing room.”
While signing a new contract wouldn’t necessarily remove Araujo from the market, it would strengthen Barcelona’s negotiating power.
If a new deal is signed, Barcelona would be able to command a far higher fee for the Uruguayan.
Man Utd plotting Chelsea transfer hijack?
Meanwhile, Manchester United seem to sense an opportunity to snatch Chelsea target Matthijs de Ligt from under their nose, reports would suggest.
The Dutch centre-back could be one of the hottest commodities on the market come the summer window. His contract will have just two years left on it at that time. And it seems Juventus would be willing to cash in on him if they receive the right price.
Previous indications placed that figure at £67m. That is a £37m discount on the release clause in his current deal. Of course, that has peaked the interest of the Stamford Bridge hierarchy. They could be desperate for defenders for next season.
The Blues are still yet to tie down Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger and Cesar Azpilicueta past the end of this campaign. However, it now seems their Premier League rivals have also joined the race. Calciomercato claim three clubs are interested.
It is the trio of ‘Barcelona, United and above all Bayern Munich’, who would like him to replace the outgoing Niklas Sule.
Sule, who has announced he’ll be leaving when his contract is up at the end of the season, is another target of Chelsea’s.