Manchester United have been named as frontrunners in the chase for Barcelona defender Marc Bartra as he considers his future at Camp Nou.
A report in the Mirror claims the Spain international has been left distraught by Luis Enrique's decision to leave him out of his Clasico squad over the weekend and has seen it as a prime indicator that his career could be stalling at Barcelona.
Indeed, the Catalan outfit certainly did not miss him, securing a 4-0 win against Real Madrid to take charge of La Liga. It means a parting of ways is looking likely and Manchester United want to take full advantage.
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Louis van Gaal has been on the lookout for a new centre-back for the majority of his Old Trafford tenure. Ed Woodward tried and failed to broker a deal for Real Madrid star Sergio Ramos in the summer. But it appears he may have used interest from the Red Devils to coax his current club into offering him a pay rise; they did.
But Van Gaal would ideally sign a left-footed centre-back if he cannot agree a deal for an elite performer and Bartra has emerged as a convenient target to aim for. The link will only grow stronger if, as reported, Bartra switches agents to be represented by former Barcelona captain Carles Puyol.
The Spanish legend has moved on from playing and has moved into agency and will be relying on his strong relationship with Van Gaal to get himself started. That will certainly build an instant bridge to Bartra, strengthening the chance of a deal.
Manchester United also launched an ambitious bid for Bartra's club team-mate Neymar. The Brazilian was subjected to a world-record bid from Old Trafford, according to the player's father, but he chose to remain in Catalonia.
They have also been linked with Leo Messi, who is reportedly considering an epic move away from the only club he has ever played for. Of course, any deal for the Argentinian would come at a significant expense as well.
Needless to say, Bartra is a much more likely addition.
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