Manchester City look to have stolen a march on rivals Chelsea in the race to land Barcelona’s La Masia starlet Gerard Deulofeu, report the Daily Mail.

The talented youngster is rated as the next big thing to come from Barcelona’s famed youth academy, but has an £8.1 million release-clause written into his contract which would allow potential suitors to snap him up on the cheap.

Both Manchester City and Chelsea are keen on securing the services of the 18-year-old, but it is the Premier League champions who are believed to be closest to wrapping up a deal after promising to double his wages if he opts to swap the Nou Camp for the Etihad Stadium.

Billed as the next Lionel Messi, Deulofeu has had a brief taste of first team action with Barcelona this season in La Liga and in the Champions League, and was offered a sponsorship deal with Nike aged just 14.

However Chelsea and Manchester City have both been alerted to the fact he is still on a youth contract and hope to lure him away from the Catalan club before he is tied down to a long-term professional deal.

Contract talks between Barcelona and Deulofeu are said to have stalled in recent weeks, further buoying to the two Premier League club's hopes of landing their man.

The arrival of former Barcelona official Txiki Begiristain at Manchester City has prompted a host of stories linking players from the Catalan club to the Citizens.

Sergio Busquets and Cesc Fabregas have both reportedly been targets for Manchester City in the past.

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