Barcelona have moved closer to the recruitment of Andre Gomes, following reports that Jose Mourinho has ruled out any bid for the Valencia star. Sport claims the Catalans will now step negotiations up, possibly including Alen Halilovic as a makeweight in a deal worth around €40m (£33.5m, $44.5m).
Portugal international Gomes has been persistently linked with a move away from Valencia in recent weeks, after gaining a reputation as one of the most promising creative midfielders around in his first two La Liga seasons.
Last month, Sky Sports claimed Chelsea had had a £32m bid rejected, while Juventus and Manchester United were both understood to be closely monitoring the situation.
However, Barcelona are now in the box-seat to secure the player, with Catalan publications Sport and Mundo Deportivo claiming Luis Enrique's side have earmarked Gomes as a top priority for the coming mercato.
Luis Enrique is believed to see the Portugal star as a long-term replacement for 32-year-old Andres Iniesta, and club officials are ready to make him their second signing of the summer, following the €25m deal with Lyon for the transfer of Samuel Umtiti.
Barcelona were concerned that Manchester United's economic power, coupled with the fact that Gomes and Mourinho share an agent in the shape of Jorge Mendes, could see them beaten out by the Premier League outfit.
Sport, however, now reports that Mourinho has opted against any move for Gomes, instead turning his attention to Paul Pogba as part of the midfield overhaul that began with the recruitment of Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Any move for Gomes will not be easy for Barcelona, though. Valencia are demanding more than €50m for the player's signature, while Barcelona are unwilling to pay above €40m. Accordingly, Sport believes players such as Halilovic, Cristian Tello or even Sergi Samper could be used as sweeteners, while the positive relationship between the clubs' two sporting directors – Robert Fernandez and Jesus Garcia Pitarch – could prove crucial in any deal.