eric bailly
Eric Bailly joined Villarreal from Espanyol in January 2015 following the departure of Gabriel to Arsenal.Getty.

Barcelona have identified Villarreal centre-back Eric Bailly as a potential low-cost alternative to Marquinhos and Aymeric Laporte, ahead of the summer transfer window, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The 22-year-old has been in impressive from during the season and the reports understand that the Yellow Submarine would be open to negotiate his departure for an affordable fee between €20m (£15.5m, $22.6m) and €25m (£19.3m, $28.2m).

The Catalans club are desperately looking to strengthen the heart of their defence ahead of next season, with a solid partner for Gerard Pique. Javier Mascherano, Jeremy Mathieu, and Thomas Vermaelen are already on the wrong side of the 30-year-old, while Marc Bartra has failed to convince manager Luis Enrique that he deserves a place in his plans, despite being an important player for Vicente del Bosque in the Spanish national team.

The La Liga leaders are currently linked with a number of centre-backs in recent months, with Athletic Club's Laporte, PSG star Marquinhos and Atletico Madrid's Jose Maria Jimenez topping the list of candidates.

However, Barcelona are also monitoring other affordable choices, due to both the club's reluctance to negotiate the departure of their top candidates and the big push to secure their services, with the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United or Real Madrid also in the hunt for a defender.

Mundo Deportivo also reported that Barcelona are keeping close tabs on Chelsea starlet Andreas Christensen, who is currently on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach.

And now the Catalan publication claims that Luis Enrique's side have identified Bailly as a new low-cost candidate after the 22-year-old had impressed the Barcelona scouters during the current season at Villarreal.

The Yellow Submarine signed the Ivorian in January last season from Espanyol, to fill the gap left by the departure of Gabriel Paulista to Arsenal. He has since become into an important player for the La Liga fourth-place but the reports add that the club will let him go for a fee between €20m and €25m as they only paid €5.7m to get his services almost a year ago.

Barcelona, furthermore, enjoy a good relationship with Villarreal after they sold them Denis Suarez last summer, with a buy-back option which is expected to be activated by the Catalans at the end of the current season. Mundo Deportivo also say that Barcelona may consider to make a similar business with Bailly, signing him this summer but leaving on loan one further season at the Madrigal Stadium to continue his development.

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