Revealed: Barcelona plan to sign Deulofeu and move Messi into midfield

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The Catalans are looking at options for the right side of their attack for next season, with the Argentine forward set to feature in a deeper role


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Even though the return of Gerard Deulofeu to Barcelona is far from a done deal at this point, it is a movement that gives some indication of the intentions of the new Barcelona side coached by Ernesto Valverde in 2017-18.

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Valverde has taken over from Luis Enrique and the former Athletic Club coach could decide to split up the club's much-praised MSN trident. The interest in Deulofeu - and Borussia Dortmund's Ousmane Dembele as an alternative - is a clear sign that Messi's future lies deeper, setting up chances as a midfield playmaker.

The Argentine attacker featured in that role for much of last term and especially when Barca switched to 3-4-3 in the latter part of the season, with Rafinha used on the right wing. Now, the Catalan club are seeking an upgrade in that position to allow the five-time Ballon d'Or winner to operate further back.

It is well known that Deulofeu is their first choice. The 23-year-old took a significant step forward in his time at AC Milan on loan last season and was rewarded with his first senior call-up to the Spain squad. And even though he still belongs to Everton, Barca retain a buy-back option for €12 million up until the end of June.

Barca possible 2017-18 graphic

After that, the club will only be able to match any other offers until the end of the transfer window. And as Goal revealed last month, the final word will be with the player himself, still somewhat hurt by Barca after twice being discarded during Luis Enrique's time in charge.

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Deulofeu has not forgotten that he has had to leave the club on two occasions, only to return and have no option of staying, unlike other La Masia graduates such as Marc Bartra and Sergi Roberto who were given opportunities to establish themselves with the first team.

The player is only interested in a return to Camp Nou if he is to be considered as a starter and can get games under his belt to form part of Spain's squad for next year's World Cup in Russia. And Barca have told him that will be the case, with Messi set to leave the right wing for a different role in 2017-18.

Gerard Deulofeu Milan Bologna Serie A

HD Ousmane Dembele Borussia Dortmund

The thinking behind Messi's move into midfield is also taking into account Andres Iniesta's reduced role last season, the Spain midfielder (who turned 33 in May) now unable to play two games in a week and in need of additional rest in the twilight of his career. The Argentine would feature behind Neymar and Luis Suarez, as he often did anyway in 2016-17, an option that will be even more likely if Barca are unable to sign their top transfer target Marco Verratti from Paris Saint-Germain this summer.

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Whatever happens there, a right winger will definitely be brought in. If a deal cannot be agreed for Deulofeu, Barca are also looking at Dembele and Monaco's Thomas Lemar, although those two are likely to be too expensive if the club can sign their two main objectives this summer - Verratti and Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin.

Messi, meanwhile, is 30 next week and the Argentine attacker will now be thinking about how he can extend his career in the best possible way. While Cristiano Ronaldo has reinvented himself as more of a goalscorer at Real Madrid, the Argentine's excellent technique means he is ideally suited to a midfield role and after featuring as a winger and a false nine, he now looks like ending up as the playmaker on a permanent basis at Camp Nou.

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