Ernesto Valverde is reportedly ready to give Marlon Santos a chance to establish himself in the Barcelona first team for the 2017-18 campaign. The Catalans were expected to sign a new centre-back to replace Jeremy Mathieu, but Mundo Deportivo claims the new boss could instead cover the Frenchman with the on-loan Brazilian defender.
Marlon, 21, joined Barcelona's second team on loan from Fluminense during the last summer transfer window as a prospect for the future.
Reports in Spain since January have claimed the Catalans are ready to trigger an option to secure his services on permanent basis. Earlier in the season Luis Enrique handed the Brazilian his senior debut during a Champions League encounter with Celtic.
It was said the deal worth €6m (£5.2m, €6.7m), but Barcelona would only need to pay €2m as Fluminense still owe them €4m from previous deals with youngsters such as Gerson and current Chelsea wing-back Kenedy.
In May Marlon's agent confirmed Barcelona's intentions of making the move permanent, but suggested that his client could be loaned out in the summer transfer window to earn some first-team experience.
Barcelona reportedly planned to sign another centre-back, such as Ajax starlet Davinson Sanchez, to feature at the heart of the defence alongside Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti and Javier Mascherano.
However, Mundo Deportivo now claims Valverde could opt against signing a new defender, instead giving Marlon the chance to prove himself in the first team.
Marlon made a good impression in the final two games of the La Liga season, being forced to start due to the absences of Mascherano and Pique. Valverde, according to Mundo Deportivo, was impressed by those performances and believes he could be the "solution" to replace Mathieu.
Marlon will have a chance to prove the new manager right in the pre-season. However, even if he fails to convince Valverde regarding a place in his plans, Mundo Deportivo understands Barcelona will pay the €2m fee this summer to make the move permanent, as they consider him a good investment for the future.