Barcelona forced to choose Neymar or Lautaro due to financial impact of coronavirus - sources
Barcelona must choose between pursuing Neymar or Lautaro Martinez this summer, various sources have told ESPN, as the club are forced to reconsider their transfer plans due to the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
One source explains that signing both was always a long shot, but La Liga leaders have now accepted that they will only be able to afford one.
Neymar remains the preferred option. Barca failed to strike a deal with Paris Saint-Germain last summer following negotiations with the French club but will try again once this season ends. When that will be remains up in the air, with the announcement on Monday that the league has been indefinitely suspended as Spain grapples with one of Europe's worst outbreaks of coronavirus.
If Barca and PSG cannot reach an agreement, sources have explained to ESPN that the Blaugrana could look to invoke Article 17 of FIFA's transfer regulations. Article 17 states that players can unilaterally cancel their contract after the three-year protection period ends with FIFA then dictating the cost of the transfer.
President Josep Maria Bartomeu is particularly keen to bring Neymar back to Camp Nou before his mandate ends in 2021.
However, there are other members of the club's hierarchy who prefer Inter Milan's Martinez. They feel an out-and-out striker is more necessary as Barca seek a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez, who turned 33 in July. At 22, Martinez is also six years Neymar's junior.
The Argentina international has a clause in his contract that would allow him to leave for €111 million in the first two weeks of July. A source explains that Barca feel that price is excessive, though, and the club would rather negotiate a player-plus-cash deal.
However, Real Madrid's interest in Martinez means Barca will have to act quickly to avoid missing out on the forward. Sources close to Martinez first told ESPN in February that Madrid were ready to compete with Barca for the player's signature.
The Catalan club, therefore, feel under pressure to decide on their transfer strategy for the summer. The economic uncertainty generated by coronavirus means it's impossible for them to truly assess what sort of position they will be in financially when -- if -- the season ends.
The club is already missing out on vital match-day revenue, as well as the income generated by the club's museum, which counts on thousands of visitors a day. It's currently shut with Spain in lockdown until at least April 11.
Longer-term repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic could see the club miss out on television money as well as prize money from competitions such as the Champions League and La Liga. The club don't know what sort of a knock-on effect that could all have on advertising and marketing revenue.
Meanwhile, the club are expected to make decisions this week on saving money in the short-term. At a meeting last Friday, a temporary reduction to the players' wages was discussed.