Real Madrid are ready for a new transfer battle with Barcelona, according to Marca, with the prize this time being Palmeiras sensation Gabriel Jesus. The Spanish publication says the Catalans were "very close" to securing the Brazilian's signature just weeks ago, but now their arch-rivals from Madrid have emerged as front-runners in the race. Manchester United and Bayern Munich are also understood to be monitoring the situation.
The 19-year-old forward is one of the hottest properties for the coming transfer window, with many tipping him as the next big thing from Brazilian football. Former Barcelona and Real Madrid hero Ronaldo has hailed Gabriel Jesus as his possible successor.
Sport reported earlier this month that Barcelona had earmarked the player as a priority signing, and just days later claimed the club had launched an opening offer of €19m (£15.8m) plus €5m in add-ons. Palmeiras and the player's agents — who own a portion of his rights — reportedly turned down the offer and demanded his €24m release clause upfront. The player did give Barca some succour by admitting it would be a "dream" to play for them.
Rumours of Barcelona launching an improved bid gathered after the club's director of football, Raul Sanllehi, was spotted by Spanish media in attendance at Palmeiras' 2-0 win over America on Tuesday (22 June). Gabriel Jesus scored two goals in the space of 12 minutes in an impressive performance.
But Marca now suggests Real Madrid are in pole position to sign their target, beating Barcelona, Manchester United and Bayern to the punch.
"The Catalans were very close to recruiting [Gabriel Jesus], but the situation changed when their great El Clasico rivals arrived on the scene," Marca said.
The Spanish publication suggests that Juventus are also interested, but due to the player's contract he would cost them €40m rather than the €24m quoted to other teams.
However, negotiations will not be simple for any party, as not only do Palmeiras want to keep hold of the player, but his rights are split across various parties. Gabriel Jesus himself owns 15%, his club 30% and his representatives the remaining 55%.
The latest battle between Barcelona and Real Madrid comes just weeks after it emerged Los Blancos were looking to hijack the Catalans' move for Las Palmas centre-back Mauricio Lemos. Barcelona are understood to still be highly interested in the Uruguayan, and plan to launch a new offer in the coming days.