Barcelona have identified Lyon centre-back Samuel Umtiti as their preferred candidate to bolster Luis Enrique's back-line, rather than long-term target Marquinhos, according to Mundo Deportivo. The Spaniards are also ready to step up the hunt for Las Palmas youngster Mauricio Lemos as a prospect for the future, following the departure of Marc Bartra to Borussia Dortmund.
The reigning La Liga and Copa del Rey winners have publicly admitted that strengthening the heart of their defence is a key priority for the coming transfer window. Javier Mascherano and Jeremy Mathieu are both on the wrong side of the 30, while Thomas Vermaelen has failed to make the impact expected since his arrival to the club from Arsenal in the summer of 2014.
The original plan was to splash most of their reported €60m (£46.8m, $68.3m) summer budget on a top centre-back who could fight with Mascherano for a starting role alongside Gerard Pique. Barcelona have been linked with a number of high-profile players in recent months such as PSG star Marquinhos, Athletic Club's Aymeric Laporte, Atletico Madrid's Jose Maria Jimenez and Everton's John Stones.
Yet the departure of Bartra to Dortmund, along with the uncertain future of Vermaelen, has forced them to to search for two additions – a proven defender along with Lemos as a prospect for the future.
With the likes of Marquinhos and Laporte out of their purchasing range, they have been linked with more affordable alternatives in recent weeks, such as Umtiti and new Manchester United signing Eric Bailly.
Mundo Deportivo now claims that, following the consideration of a number of targets, Barcelona have identified the Lyon defender as their pick to bolster the back-line, ahead of Marquinhos.
The Spanish publication claims Barcelona believe the French international is the perfect candidate due to his age, style and price. Lyon could negotiate his departure for around €25m.
Umtiti has also been linked with Tottenham after Mauricio Pochettino revealed in April that Spurs were monitoring the situation. However, earlier this week the player suggested he would struggle to reject a move to the Nou Camp, saying: "Barcelona are a club where many players would like to play."
Barcelona are understood to have ruled out the signing of Marquinhos as they believe convincing PSG to cash-in on the Brazilian for the right price will be impossible. Also, while Umtiti would be happy to scrap with Mascherano for a starting spot in Luis Enrique's plans, Marquinhos would presumably demand to be the first choice from his first day at the club.
Spanish media also reports that, along with the addition of Umtiti, Barcelona are expected to sign Lemos as one for the future. They are understood to have already launched a bid worth €4m, rising to €12m with add-ons.
UD Las Palmas's president, Miguel Angel Ramirez, said earlier this week that the first offer received from the Catalan giants "was very far" from what they would expect for 20-year-old starlet, as his release clause is set at €30m.