By Duncan Castles
Barcelona have been told to double their opening offer for Chelsea centre-back David Luiz if they want to sign the Brazil international this summer.
After rejecting a bid worth a potential €25 million, the Blues have placed a valuation of €50m on the versatile defender.
Such a fee would represent a new high-water mark for a defender, exceeding the €42m Paris Saint-Germain paid to beat Barcelona to the signature of Thiago Silva last year. The Spanish champions have spent the entire summer attempting to solve the problem left by that transfer market failure.
Seeking a defender with sufficient physical and technical ability to strengthen their porous backline while contributing to their possession-based tactics, Barca initially attempted to recruit Thiago Silva again only to be rebuffed by PSG before suffering the ignominy of losing the race to sign Marquinhos from Roma to les Parisiens.
The subsequent bid for David Luiz - with €20m guaranteed and a further €5m dependent on performances - was less than the 26-year-old's purchase price from Benfica and was quickly rejected.
However, Camp Nou coach Gerardo Martino is aware that the Catalans are very unlikely to pay the figure Chelsea are demanding and looks set to settle on his current options - the likes of Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Marca Bartra and Frank Bagnack - unless he can find an alternative.
"If they need a central defender my advice is that they have to go to the second name they have in the list because they are wasting their time," said Mourinho after the offer became public. While Barcelona are ready to increase the sum to €25m plus variables, Chelsea will not sell at that level.
The Catalans have looked at two other Premier League defenders as alternatives, opening discussions with Tottenham over Jan Vertonghen and placing a bid with Liverpool for Daniel Agger. Neither move has been well received.
Spurs expect to lose Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, so have no interest in selling a defender who excelled in his first season in English football, scoring seven goals in 48 appearances and being named in the Premier League's Team of the Year.
Vertonghen is aware of Barcelona's interest in signing him and, according to a friend, he has long held an ambition of playing for the Camp Nou club. He has, though, enjoyed both his first year at White Hart lane and is thought unlikely to push for a transfer in the manner Bale has.
Liverpool flatly rejected Barca's proposed €6m transfer fee for Agger, a player who was close to moving to Manchester City for several times that amount 12 months ago.
"We are aware that Barcelona have made an offer for Daniel that Liverpool have rejected," said the Dane's agent Per Steffensen.
"Daniel has a contract with Liverpool for the next three years and it would be up to the clubs to agree a fee for his transfer in order for that to change."
If a deal remains impossible to agree for one of their three Premier League targets, Barca may turn to France international Mamadou Sakho, who has been relegated to reserve status at PSG.