Barcelona’s hierarchy are bracing themselves for interest from Chelsea in Philippe Coutinho as the Blues go in search of a replacement for Eden Hazard.
Goal reports that even though Coutinho wants to remain at Camp Nou despite a disappointing first full campaign, some members of the Blaugrana’s board of directors are keen to sell this summer.
The Brazil international has failed to impress since arriving from Liverpool in a £105 million ($135m) deal in January 2018, despite playing his part in two Liga title wins.
And while he has struggled to fully win over supporters in Catalunya, their relationship has suffered in recent weeks after his celebration after scoring against Manchester United in the Champions League.
Fans were unhappy at him placing his fingers in his ears so as to drown out his critics following his long-range strike against the Red Devils, and jeers from the stands have become more prevalent as a result.
A disappointing performance against his former club at Anfield as Barca crashed out of Europe saw further questions asked of the 26-year-old, and the number of dissenting voices inside the club are now growing.
Chelsea, meanwhile, look set to lose Hazard this summer, with the forward having dropped his biggest hint yet that he wants to join Real Madrid.
Though the two clubs are still a long way apart on a final fee, talks are ongoing, and the Blues are expected to earn at least €100m (£90m/$118m) from the sale of the Belgium international.
Given Hazard’s importance to Maurizio Sarri’s side – he scored 16 goals and laid on 15 assists in the Premier League alone in 2018-19 – a replacement is highly likely to be sought should their FIFA-inflicted transfer ban be delayed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
It is understood that a decision on the two-window long suspension for registering senior players will be made before the closure of the upcoming transfer window, meaning a potential swoop for Coutinho would be viable.
Sarri is yet to speak to Chelsea’s hierarchy regarding transfer targets for the summer, given the Blues still have the Europa League final to play on May 29 as well as the potential for them not being able to make any new additions to their squad until 2020.
But it is likely that both Sarri and the club will have their own targets, and Barca are of the belief that Coutinho will be on at least one of those lists given his experience of the Premier League and ability to play a similar role to that of Hazard.
Should an offer be forthcoming for the playmaker, there will certainly be those inside the Barcelona boardroom who would consider allowing the third-most expensive footballer of all time to leave the club.
Coutinho’s potential departure could be one of a number of big name sales at Barcelona this summer, with Ivan Rakitic close to agreeing a €50m (£43m/$56m) move to Inter while Samuel Umtiti is being pushed towards the exits after an injury-hit campaign.