Barcelona have made Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng their number one transfer target and are ready to pursue a move for the World Cup winner ahead of any deal for Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen, according to Marca.
It's no secret that Barca are in the market for a central defender this summer following the exit of Catalan legend Carles Puyol, but attempts to sign Paris Saint-Germain starlet Marquinhos have come up short and left new boss Jose Enrique with a huge problem to solve ahead of the fight to wrestle back La Liga.
Gunners skipper Vermaelen has been consistently mentioned as a cut-price £10m option for Enqirue, but he's handed Manchester United a massive transfer boost by prioritising a far more expensive pursuit of Boateng's signature.
Boateng has whopping price tag
Barca may view Boateng as the composed defender with the pace and poise to shore up their leaky backline, but the Bayern star won't come cheap.
Marca believe the Bundesliga giants have placed a whopping €39m price tag on the versatile defender's head, and with the 25-year-old under contract at the Allianz Arena until 2018 don't expect much room for manoeuvre on that front.
Despite that lofty fee Barca believe Boateng's versatility and experience at the highest level make him perfect for Enrique's plans this season, with Bayern braced for interest in the defender before their Bundesliga campaign begins on August 22nd.
Surprise Madrid interest
Attention has shifted quickly from Barca in the search for a new top defender because their bitter rivals Real Madrid are also tracking Boateng closely.
Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta is desperate not to get involved in a protracted bidding war and now wants to meet Boateng's representatives urgently, to establish whether the star would be receptive to a blockbuster summer switch after impressing hugely at the World Cup.
What about Vermaelen?
A change in tact means Barca have now put their interest in Vermaelen firmly on the backburner and will only revisit that deal if Boateng eludes them, leaving United free to chase down a target Louis van Gaal has identified as perfect for his favoured 3-5-2 system.
Vermaelen has snubbed contract talks with Arsenal and after a difficult 18 months with injury and loss of form is thought to be interested in pursuing a fresh challenge, but that now looks unlikely to come in La Liga.