In what can only be described as a shamelessly bold negotiating tactic, Barcelona appear to have flipped the script on Atletico Madrid, by declaring they no longer want Saul Niguez in a straight swap for Antoine Griezmann.
Instead, Joan Laporta has set his sights on Joao Felix, the 21-year-old wonderkid who Atleti recently paid well over £100m for. Yeah, right…
At the start of this week, the main story surrounding Saul and Atletico was that Liverpool wanted to sign the midfielder and had opened talks with the Spanish champions. But the football news cycle moves fast, and reports soon emerged that no bid had arrived from the Reds, and Barça had stolen a march.
Various Spanish outlets had claimed that a straight swap deal that would see Griezmann rejoin Atletico was ‘close’. Both parties saw it as beneficial, with Diego Simeone keen to bring the Frenchman home, while Barça were keen to reduce their wage bill while also bringing in a reliable midfielder at no expense.
The latest from Mundo Deportivo, however, seems to suggest that this is no longer the case. They say that negotiations have been dragging on, with Barcelona president Laporta no longer satisfied with just Saul. Atleti, it’s claimed, have offered up additional players to choose from, including Mario Hermoso and Renan Lodi.
Bizarrely, however, Laporta wants Felix, seeing him as a straight positional replacement for Griezmann.
It’s worth noting Mundo are pretty vague on the details, and do note that he hasn’t even been mentioned in negotiations as yet. If Barça do moot the possibility of swapping the two players, you have to imagine they will be laughed out of the room.
Felix hasn’t quite hit the ground running since he became the youngest ever player to break the £100m barrier in 2019, but he showed flashes of his obvious potential last season. He scored successive braces against Osasuna and Cadiz in November, and crept into double figures for goals despite losing his spot in the starting XI towards the end of the season.
Diego Simeone sees a big future for him, and while the prospect of teaming Luis Suarez with Griezmann for a couple of seasons is tempting, it is not likely to be tempting enough to sacrifice Felix, who could star for Atleti for the next decade.