The financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic will force Barcelona into a key transfer decision, as the club will only be able to pursue one of Neymar or Lautaro Martinez when the window opens, sources told Moises Llorens and Sam Marsden of ESPN.
Signing both the Paris Saint-Germain superstar and Inter Milan striker in the same summer was always considered a stretch, but the club now accepts that only one big-money deal is feasible, Llorens and Marsden add.
Re-signing the Brazilian, whose €222-million move from the Camp Nou to the French capital in 2017 remains a world record, is the priority. Despite numerous attempts last summer, Barcelona failed to bring the 28-year-old back to Spain. They're expected to launch another offensive whenever the current season is completed.
If an agreement cannot be reached between the two clubs, Llorens and Marsden report that Barca could invoke Article 17 of FIFA's transfer regulations. In this case, the seldom used clause would allow Neymar to cancel his contract with PSG, with FIFA deciding on the cost of the transfer.
It's unclear when that will even become an option, though. La Liga is suspended indefinitely while Spain tries to combat one of the world's worst outbreaks of COVID-19, the disease that the new coronavirus causes. Nearly 40,000 cases have been confirmed in the country, resulting in 2,696 deaths.
Spain is on lockdown until at least April 11.
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is believed to be leading the charge to re-sign Neymar, but other members of the club hierarchy view Martinez as a more worthwhile investment. The Argentine striker, 22, projects to be a direct replacement for incumbent No. 9 Luis Suarez, who, at age 33, continues to show signs of wear.
Real Madrid have also shown interest in Martinez, who is believed to have a €111-million release clause in his Inter contract that can be triggered during the first two weeks of July.