Barcelona have reportedly earmarked Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante as their top target to replace Sergio Busquets next year.
The France international has less than 12 months left to run on his contract at Stamford Bridge, and his future continues to be called into question.
Despite his woeful injury record over the past couple of years, Chelsea are still thought to be keen to tie Kante down to a new deal, but talks are currently at a standstill.
The 31-year-old is thought to be prioritizing a long-term stay at Chelsea, but the Blues are only willing to offer him a guaranteed two years with an option for a third.
In contrast, Kante is looking for a firm three-year deal until 2025, and negotiations have therefore hit a roadblock while he recovers from thigh surgery.
Should Kante ultimately fail to agree a new deal with Chelsea, the World Cup winner is not expected to be short of offers as a free agent and has been linked with the likes of Arsenal, Barcelona and Real Madrid.
According to Relevo, the Blaugrana have made Kante their number one target to take over from Busquets, who is also set to become a free agent at the end of the current campaign.
Busquets is widely expected to depart Barcelona upon the expiration of his contract, and Xavi’s side are therefore prioritizing the signing of a new midfielder in the coming months.
The report adds that Barca chiefs are still waiting to hear from Busquets regarding his final decision on his future, but they have already set their sights on a free transfer for Kante.
The Chelsea man’s injury record is a slight concern for Barcelona, though, and La Blaugrana will keep tabs on his rehabilitation following the World Cup, which he has already been ruled out of.
Kante made just two appearances for Chelsea this season before entering the treatment room with his thigh injury, and he now has 13 goals and 15 assists from 262 games for the Blues.
Graham Potter was recently questioned on Kante’s contract situation, but he insisted that now was not the time to discuss the Frenchman’s future as he prepares for a few months of recovery.
“The most important thing for us and for me is that we help him get fit. That’s the focus,” Potter told reporters prior to the draw with Manchester United.
“He’s got a long road ahead of him so we have to make sure that we get him the right treatment, we help him get back fit and strong, and once he’s enjoying his football we can think about those things then.”
Busquets is not the only midfielder being tipped to leave Barcelona in 2023, as a separate report has claimed that Franck Kessie is pining to leave just a few months after arriving as a free agent.