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Calenda claims Barcelona wanted Osimhen to replace Suarez

20:04 BST 31/08/2020
Osimhen Suarez
The Nigerian striker was courted by some of Europe’s big guns before settling for the Partenopei, according to his management

Roberto Calenda, a member of Victor Osimhen’s management team, has claimed prior to the Nigerian signing for Napoli, Barcelona were interested in bringing him in place of unsettled striker Luis Suarez.

The 21-year old sealed a five-year deal believed to be worth up to €80 million from Lille and will be expected to deliver, having netted 18 competitive strikes last term in France.

Osimhen made an impression by scoring a hat-trick and providing an assist in an 11-0 friendly win over Italian fourth division side L’Aquila during a training camp at Castel di Sangro last Friday.

Suarez’s future at Camp Nou is currently up in the air as he is reportedly not keen to continue at the club and new Blaugrana boss Ronald Koeman does not want him.

"I usually never talk about these things, out of respect for professionalism and the club. It is right that Napoli say things as they went, they are the main players,” Calenda told Radio Marte.

“I can say that it was a well-conducted negotiation by the parties, we started from a distance. The signing took place with constant communication and we were good at keeping track of it.

“[It was a] difficult operation, Tottenham and Liverpool wanted Osimhen until the end, even Barcelona initially wanted him instead of Suarez. Napoli, however, did everything. They wanted him and took him."

However, Goal understands Barcelona were only tracking the progress of Osimhen, and he was never a real target to make a bid.

From Liverpool, Goal understands Jurgen Klopp was not interested in Osimhen because of the high price of the Nigerian. Earlier this year, the Reds were looking to strengthen their options from the bench when the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah were not available. Liverpool eventually brought in Takumi Minamino in January.

Napoli boss Gennaro Gattuso had previously stated that Osimhen needs time to gel with his team as he is not a Maradona kind of signing and these same thoughts were reflected by Calenda.

"The boy [Osimhen] is an exemplary professional, very serious and very serene. This is important when you get to teams where there have been players who have made football history,” he continued.

“The coach's [Gattuso] words are right: you have to wait and give him time because he comes from far away, he must adapt to our championship and our customs. But without a shadow of a doubt he has great talent and I am sure he will prove it because he has some important characteristics."