Barcelona are preparing for life after the last of their golden generation as Gerard Pique has already retired, Jordi Alba is looking at an uncertain future and Sergio Busquets’ contract is expiring at the end of the season.
However, manager Xavi Hernandez is intent on retaining Busquets for another year and is pushing for the club to offer him a renewal. But the 34-year-old has his heart set on a move to the MLS when his deal runs down at the end of the ongoing campaign.
In case Busquets does end up departing, Barcelona have already identified several possible targets to take over from their veteran midfielder starting next season.
But, according to SPORT, manager Xavi and president Joan Laporta are not on the same page with regard to the player they want to sign to replace Busquets in the summer.
Xavi has his sights set on Real Sociedad ace Martin Zubimendi as his main target to fill the void that would be left by the departure of his current club captain. However, Laporta is fixated on signing Wolves’ midfield mainstay Ruben Neves instead.
Zubimendi has grown in prominence in La Liga over the past eighteen months or so and is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the most reliable holding midfielders in Spain. Xavi is convinced of his abilities and believes that he would be the ideal replacement for Busquets.
However, Laporta sees Neves as his preferred target. The Portuguese international would be a financially feasible option for the Blaugrana as his contract expires in 2024 while the Barcelona president’s close ties with his agent, Jorge Mendes, also gives them an edge.
In comparison, Zubimendi would cost Barça €60 million – his release clause amount. With Real Sociedad extending his contract until 2027, there is unlikely to be any room for negotiations either
On top of that, the Catalans will also have to deal with competition from Manchester United.
Either operation will not be straightforward given Barcelona’s Financial Fair Play issues. And it will be intriguing to see whether they press ahead with Zubimendi or Neves as their main target to replace Busquets next season.