Barcelona are considering Arsenal midfielder and reported Manchester United target Mesut Ozil as a potential alternative to Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho in January, according to the latest reports from Spain.
The La Liga giants continue to be linked with a lucrative move for Coutinho, the player they chased devotedly throughout the summer transfer window with multiple big-money bids that were rebuffed.
The wantaway Brazilian international eventually remained at Anfield despite submitting an official transfer request, although the saga has continued to rumble on after chief executive Oscar Grau stated last month that Barcelona were ready to try again in the New Year.
Liverpool have remained adamant with their stance that Coutinho - whose current long-term contract contains no release clause - is simply not for sale at any price and it appears that the Blaugrana are preparing contingency plans in the likely event that they are not able to change their minds.
Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Nabil Fekir, Julian Brandt and Max Meyer are just a selection of the midfielders that have been suggested as possible substitutes, while Mundo Deportivo claim that former Real Madrid man Ozil is once again on Barcelona's radar.
The Catalan publication points to the fact that soon-to-be out-of-contract Ozil's refusal to sign a new deal with Arsenal will likely significantly lower his price tag and that, unlike Coutinho, he will not be ineligible for the knockout stages of the Champions League due to the Gunners' involvement in the Europa League.
Such a topic appears to have sparked something of an internal debate at Barcelona, with the German's age - at 29, he is four years older than Coutinho - also a key factor to be taken into account.
This is not the first time that Barcelona, also believed to have reached a verbal agreement with Antoine Griezmann, have been said to be eyeing a move for Ozil.
On Spanish deadline day in September, radio station Cadena Cope suggested they were pondering a desperate last-ditch play for his signature if Liverpool refused to sell Coutinho in the final hours of the window. Such a transfer never came to pass, with Arsenal apparently producing a lofty valuation of €60m (£53.4m, $70.8m) on that occasion.
La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and Besiktas have similarly been credited with an interest in Ozil, while he has has also been heavily mentioned in connection with a reunion with former Real boss Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford. Manchester United's preference is to sign him for nothing when his contract expires next summer.
Ozil is a much-maligned figure at Arsenal and has made nine appearances to date during an injury-disrupted 2017-18 campaign. Speaking earlier this week, Arsene Wenger reiterated that the club had yet to decide if they plan to offload the World Cup winner and fellow contract rebel Alexis Sanchez in January or risk losing them for nothing at the end of the season.
"No decision has been made on that front - do we let anybody go in January or not," he said. "We'll have to to think about that to see where we stand with them at the end of December."