Sources: Barca's €100m, players bid for Neymar
Barcelona have begun negotiating a cash deal with a player exchange to sign Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain, sources have told ESPN FC.
According to ESPN FC sources, Barca are prepared to offer as much as €100 million with Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Rakitic -- whom Barca will need to convince in order to make the switch -- included as part of the deal.
Until now, Barca had hoped to negotiate using only players. As well as Coutinho and Rakitic, the Spanish champions had considered adding Ousmane Dembele and Nelson Semedo even though the Portugal international is considered "unsellable."
However, sources have told ESPN FC that PSG are not too keen on Rakitic but are interested in Coutinho and continue to push for Semedo to be included in the deal.
An initial offer of €60m plus Coutinho from Barcelona has already been rejected by PSG, according to ESPN FC sources.
A meeting between the two clubs took place on Tuesday, with sources telling ESPN FC that Camp Nou president Josep Maria Bartomeu sent director of football Eric Abidal and technical secretary Javier Bordas to represent the club. Also in attendance was Andre Cury, the club's director based in Brazil, who has a strong relationship with Neymar's family.
PSG sporting director Leonardo was also present alongside trusted No. 2 Angelo Castellazzi, while superagent Pini Zahavi, who brokered Neymar's move from Barca to the Ligue 1 side, was also expected to be there.
Sources say no major advances were made during the meeting, which Barca are viewing as the first contact between the two clubs as negotiations step up. PSG stood firm with the hope of a bidding war breaking out between Barca and Real Madrid.
Barca still believe the deal is "very complicated," but Madrid's inability to meet PSG's demands could help the Blaugrana.
A meeting between the two clubs has been arranged for Tuesday, and sources have told ESPN FC that Camp Nou president Josep Maria Bartomeu has chosen director of football Eric Abidal and technical secretary Javier Bordas to represent them. Also in attendance will be Andre Cury, the club's director based in Brazil, who has a strong relationship with Neymar's family.
PSG sporting director Leonardo will be present alongside trusted No. 2 Angelo Castellazzi, and superagent Pini Zahavi, who brokered Neymar's move from Barca to the Ligue 1 side, is also expected.
Barca still believe this deal is "very complicated," but Real Madrid's inability to meet PSG's demands could help the Blaugrana.
Madrid president Florentino Perez is interested in the Brazil international's signature, but having failed to find the funds to sign Paul Pogba from Manchester United, with Pogba having been manager Zinedine Zidane's No. 1 target, it is unlikely they can afford Neymar.
Madrid are still in the race, however, thanks to Perez's relationship with Neymar Sr., and they have more financial power than Barca. However, sources have told ESPN FC that a return to Camp Nou is the Brazil international's preferred choice.
Barca's financial situation is not at its healthiest, but Bartomeu is ready to make one final push to secure Neymar's return.
Coutinho appears resigned to the fact that his future lies outside of Barca and would see PSG as a good opportunity to continue his career. Bayern Munich remain interested, but Barca deem him crucial in any negotiations for Neymar. Coutinho is the Catalan club's record signing, having cost €160m in January 2018.
Another player who could be used as a makeweight is Rakitic. He was vital in Ernesto Valverde's first two seasons, but the Barca boss refused to confirm the Croatia international would remain at the club. When asked about Rakitic's future, he replied: "I don't know if he will stay."
The departures of Coutinho and Rakitic would free up wages for incoming players, with the duo among the highest-paid players at the club.
This week is deemed "vital" in understanding how much cash will be required to complete the transaction. Barcelona are confident, though they are awaiting a gesture from Neymar to reject the rumours of a move to Real Madrid.
Information from ESPN FC's France correspondent Julien Laurens was used in this report.