Manchester City have informed Barcelona that they are willing to meet Thiago Alcantara's buyout clause, AS reports suggest.
Interest in the 22-year-old midfielder has ramped up after details of a reduced release clause in his contract with the Catalan giants came to light.
The clause currently stands at a staggering €90m, but should the diminutive Spaniard not feature during Barcelona's last game of the season this weekend against Malaga he will have not fulfilled 60% of the club's games this season, a circumstance that will see his release fee drop to €18m.
The reduced cost for a midfielder who has been likened to his compatriots Xavi and Andres Iniesta has seen Manchester United's interest in Alcantara ignite once again, but Spanish newspaper AS report that their neighbours are prepared to challenge for the 22-year-old, and have already informed the La Liga champions they will happily meet the €18m clause.
Alcantara declared earlier in this week that his immediate focus is on Spain's Under-21 European Championship campaign, which begins next week, and not where he will be playing his club football next season.
But Barcelona's final game of the La Liga campaign this Saturday could signal where the club are on their decision with the player. The club are in the process of financing a lucrative move for Brazilian superstar Neymar, and if last season's Champions League showings are anything to go by, the club are in desperate need of defensive recruits, with Gerard Pique and Carlos Puyol still the club's only established options at centre half.
David Villa and Alexis Sanchez are two names who have been linked with an exit to help fund summer recruitment in the coming months, with Alcantara another possibility given the club's plethora of midfield talent both established and emerging from La Masia.
With Manuel Pellegrini's arrival at the Etihad Stadium imminent, former Barcelona chiefs Txiki Begiristain, now City's sporting director, and Ferran Soriano, current chief executive, are eager to rebuild after last season's disappointment and reportedly see Alcantara as the man to spark that.