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The World Cup winner says his compatriot is looking to strengthen at the back but dismissed speculation that Eder Alvarez Balanta is a Blaugrana transfer target

River Plate president Daniel Passarella has claimed Gerardo Martino has told him he is determined to sign defenders for Barcelona in the January transfer window.

However, the Argentina legend, 60, insists that at no point during their meeting earlier this month did the Blaugrana boss bring up the possibility of taking highly-rated Colombian centre-half Eder Alvarez Balanta away from El Monumental.

"I talked to Tata Martino for an hour," Passarella told Ole. "It was a very nice chat and he said to me that in December Barcelona will need defenders.

"He knows all the players. I said we have very good players, but he never said, 'We want to buy Balanta.'"

Passarella added that even if Martino had expressed an interest in the 20-year-old Bogota native, River have no intention of selling a player of such enormous potential.

“Balanta is worth a lot but he will be worth more," the World Cup winner argued. "If, in the future, the player could reach a valuation of €50m, and there is a great chance of that happening, then 90 per cent of people would tell you that €4m or €5m now is not good [business].

"For this [reason], he will not be sold."

Barcelona's defensive strength has repeatedly come in for criticism in recent times but they have at least been buoyed by the news that club captain Carles Puyol is set to return to full training next week.

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