Barcelona are interested in signing Manchester City star Raheem Sterling in the January transfer window and will have money to spend when it opens, according to reports in Spain.
The 26-year-old has started just two of the Premier League champions’ seven top-flight fixtures this season, and has only completed 90 minutes in the league once.
The England international appears to remain behind Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and now £100million summer signing Jack Grealish in the pecking order at the Etihad Stadium, leading to suggestions he could be tempted to move on soon.
And Mundo Deportivo claim he is a key target for struggling Catalan giants in less than three months time when the transfer window opens, while SPORT go one step further and claim Sterling has already given his approval to a move to Spain.
Moreover, Mundo also claim Ronald Koeman will have money to spend in the market despite their ongoing financial turmoil, if the Dutchman remains in charge until then.
The club are in financial ruin, due to their debt which stands at more than £1billion, which contributed to LaLiga slashing their wage bill to a maximum of £90m – equivalent to that of Watford – last week.
But the report claims Ronald Koeman will still have £13.7m (€16m) in the winter transfer window as part of their FIFA Fair Play commitment despite the financial strain on the club.
And while that sum is extremely unlikely to be able to sign Sterling or Spain star Dani Olmo – the supposed other main target for the club in January – it would be used to pay a fee to either City or RB Leipzig in an initial loan deal, the report suggests.
Salary however is not expected to be an issue even if a permanent deal remains so at this time, with Barcelona waving goodbye to both Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann in the summer.
Argentina star Messi – who joined Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer in the summer – was Barcelona’s highest earner last season on a £500,000-a-week contract, while Atletico Madrid star Griezmann was second on that list earning £294,000-a-week.
The claims about Sterling come just a couple of weeks after SPORT claimed Sterling has been made Barcelona’s priority target for January.
They also said that Barcelona were working on wrapping up a loan swoop this summer, although this ultimately fell through with Sterling staying at City.
Sterling has featured prominently for City over his five-year stint so far, but found himself missing out on a spot in the starting XI over the final months of last season.
The England star now has less than two years left on his current deal and no talks to extend it appear to be imminently concluded.
Sterling has made 297 competitive appearances for City overall, scoring 72 goals and picking up 49 assists.
Sportsmail reported back in May that City were open to offers for Sterling, and that he headed a list of players they would be prepared to sell.
But the club also planned to discuss a new contract with the 26-year-old after the European Championship, with City calm about the situation.
But boss Pep Guardiola has hailed the impact of the winger, and believes there is more to come from him this season.
‘Do you know how many incredible successes we had in the last seasons, yeah? Impossible without Raheem. He’s such an important player,’ he said.
‘But I am here to tell them. He reached an incredible high standard and I have to tell him this is the standard we need, for you, for all of us.
‘And I’m pretty sure he will get it. If he’s able to do it, he will do it. And I’m so optimistic that he will do a great season.’