Barcelona are said to be willing to meet Athletic Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte’s £29.5m release clause in order to stave off rival interest from Arsenal and FC Bayern Munchen.
The 19-year-old, described by Talksport as ‘arguably the most coveted young centre-back in Europe’, has come to the fore this season under the tutelage of Ernesto Valverde as the Basque side close in on La Liga’s fourth and final Champions League place.
Having started 30 of 35 Los Leones league games this term he’s certainly played no small part in posting the division’s fourth-most miserly defensive figures.
Alongside Chelsea’s January acquisition Kurt Zouma and Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane, Laporte constitutes a new generation of French defenders set to take over the world.
With Thomas Vermaelen looking an increasingly forlorn figure on the Gunners periphery, Arsene Wenger faces a real need to add depth to his options in central defence.
However, with Barcelona freed from the strictures of their transfer ban until the FIFA appeals process has been exhausted, the Blaugrana are very keen to find a replacement for rapidly rusting legend Carles Puyol.
Injury problems have caught up with their aged skipper this term and that may serve to make the Catalans all the keener to shell out what is a massive sum for a teenager.
The Gunners do at least have an eminently solid first-choice central pairing to rely upon in Per Mertesacker and Laporte’s fellow Frenchman Laurent Koscielny.
A win-percentage of 43 per cent when the pair don’t start alongside one another this term increases to 67 per cent when they share the stage from the off, illustrating the quality nosedive when either is absent.
Luckily both will be present when Arsenal’s joint-meanest home rearguard seek their third successive Emirates win to nil over West Brom next time out, an eventuality that can be backed at a juicy 11/10.