Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has confirmed that the club has ended talks with Inter over Lautaro Martinez, and will instead look to re-assess their transfer strategy in light of the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis.
Barça have been eyeing Martinez all season in a bid to freshen up an ageing attacking line. But with Inter not expected to accept less than the player’s €111m release clause and the reigning Spanish champion’s already well documented financial concerns, plans might have to change.
“We talked about Lautaro with Inter a few weeks ago but now the issue is stopped. Now we are not talking about it,” told Catalan broadcaster TV3. “We have to finish the League and the Champions League and see what the priorities are. It is also a time for internal reflection to clarify how the crisis is affecting the club.
“It is a market in which you cannot think of large investments. We need to see when people can return to the stadium, tourists to the museum. We have to wait and see how it all evolves.”
It was only last week that ESPN reported that Barça had struck an agreement with Martinez over personal terms. That was always likely to be the more straightforward part of the deal, with negotiating a fee with a much tougher obstacle to clear.
That report made it clear that any deal for Barça to sign Martinez might be dependent on the club finding a way to sell expensive flop Philippe Coutinho. Inter are said to prefer cash than player swaps, which is how Barça hoped (and failed) to re-sign Neymar last summer.
It remains to be seen whether the current climate will actually yield a buyer for Coutinho, even with Barça thought to be willing to take a loss on the Brazilian.