Koke some way from joining Barcelona to replace Xavi

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Barcelona have seemingly identified Koke as the ideal successor to Xavi as the creative heartbeat of their midfield once the latter lowers the curtain on his illustrious career. This future planning from Barcelona may also put paid to any remote hopes Chelsea and Manchester United had of signing the player from under the nose of the Catalan giants.

But although it would appear inevitable that Koke will eventually leave Atletico Madrid for Barcelona such is the allure of a move to the Camp Nou, and deal for the young Spaniard is far from a formality. As reported by Mundo Deportivo, Koke is far from being a Barcelona player and the process to confirm his acquisition will be a long one.

Atletico are not prepared to negotiate on the €60 million release clause Koke has written into his contract, while his allegiance to the Spanish champions, who he joined aged eight, makes Barcelona’s task a potentially complicated one.

However, being identified as the hand-picked replacement for one of the all-time icons of Spanish football in a team as esteemed as any other would pander to the ego of all players, regardless of their affiliation to any particular club.

- Manchester United to trigger Koke's release clause?
- Koke offered £4.5m-a-year deal to reject Manchester United
- Chelsea and Barcelona both interested in Koke

How does he compare to Xavi?

Koke may only be 22, but last season was his fourth successive campaign as a first-team regular for Atletico. It was, however, undeniably his breakout season as he played a prominent role in Atletico winning La Liga and reaching the final of the Champions League.

His overall contribution in the league was far more significant than that of Xavi at Barcelona, with the young apprentice having surpassed the master in a number of key categories. In his 36 La Liga appearances, three of which were as a sub, Koke created a very impressive 67 goalscoring opportunities for his teammates, while he played 54 key attacking passes over the same time time span.

Xavi, albeit in six less matches, was the director creator of 47 chances for Barcelona, while he was able to contribute only two assists over the course of the league campaign. Koke, meanwhile, assisted 14 goals - a total below only Angel di Maria.

Koke does lack the passing accuracy of Xavi, however, which is perhaps to be expected given the short, fast passing the latter dictates with Barcelona, with the 34-year-old completing 93 percent of his compared to 81 percent for the youngster.

But, when it comes to defensive attributes, Koke is the clear winner. Xavi won only 17 tackles for Barcelona this season, something which of course is not his key duty, but the same can be said of Koke, who still managed 77 successful challenges.

Koke was also able to make 34 interceptions, compared to just nine for Xavi.

Hope for Chelsea and Manchester United?

While Koke remains at Atletico, there is always hope for Chelsea and Manchester United. Barcelona are the frontrunners, but it may be that the player would rather test himself in a different league, rather than remain in Spain.

But would Jose Mourinho of Louis van Gaal pursue a move? Chelsea have been linked with Koke extensively, but the acquisition of Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona is likely to spell the end of their interest.

Manchester United, meanwhile, are in the market for a creative midfielder of some repute and there remains a chance Koke could move to Old Trafford. However, Van Gaal appears more intent on pursuing players he has worked with in the past, with numerous Bayern Munich and Dutch midfielders among them.

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