By Duncan Castles
Barcelona are in final negotiations with Paris Saint-Germain to sign Brazil central defender Marquinhos - new coach Luis Enrique's priority signing for his first season in charge at Camp Nou.
Sources involved expect the transfer to be agreed by Monday, and the club could still move for another two defenders this summer after allowing Alex to join AC Milan earlier this week.
PSG are also in the market for another forward as a replacement for Ezequiel Lavezzi, who they are trying to sell, despite recent Financial Fair Play disciplinary action aimed at restricting their movement in the transfer market.
The Marquinhos' deal may yet see Dani Alves move to the French champions after he entered the final year of his €10 million contract at Barcelona.
The right-back has won four La Liga titles and the Champions League twice in six seasons at Camp Nou, but has yet to be told by the club whether he is wanted for another campaign. PSG, in contrast, have made their interest in Alves explicit, leading the player to describe them as a “real alternative for me”.
The Qatar-owned club initially refused to countenance selling Marquinhos just a season after acquiring the defender from Roma for a fee of over €30m, informing him that he would not be permitted to leave. Barca's persistence with the 20-year-old, however, coupled with PSG's €50m recruitment of David Luiz from Chelsea, subsequently led them to price the 20-year-old at €60m.
Barca are now negotiating that sum down to €35m, with PSG proposing that Alves be included in the final deal. If the Brazilian is allowed to move to join the club it is understood he will seek a three-year contract there.
Central defence has been an obvious problem area for Barcelona for several seasons after Carles Puyol's failing knee forced him into retirement, while the attempted conversion of Javier Mascherano and Alex Song into centre-backs failed to fill the gap. Ironically, the Catalans lost their preferred choice for the position, Thiago Silva, to PSG in a 2012 bidding war, and have been unable to extract him from the French capital since.
While Alves is a cornerstone of a Brazil defence that is considered fundamental to their efforts to reclaim the World Cup, Marquinhos is still waiting for a second full international appearance for his country. He was not called up by Luiz Felipe Scolari for the finals, but scored as Brazil's Under-20s won the Toulon Tournament on Sunday.