Spain Under 21 centre-back Jorge Mere has agreed a move from Sporting Gijon to FC Köln. Barcelona, Valencia, Sampdoria and Malaga had been linked with his services in recent weeks but the 20-year-old will finally continue his career at the Bundesliga.
Mere is considered as one of the most promising centre-backs to emerge from the prolific Spanish academy, having been regular at the Sporting line-up during the last two campaigns despite his age. The Asturian defender was also a crucial member of Albert Celades' lineup during the recent Under 21 European Championship, shaping the heart of the defence alongside Real Madrid starlet Jesus Vallejo as Spain finished as runners-up to Germany.
Barcelona currently have Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti, Javier Mascherano and Marlon Santos to cover the position but they are still said to be looking for a young defender to replace the 33-year-old Argentinian in the long-term.
Yet, Jeremy Mathieu has left the club to join Sporting Club Portugual while Thomas Vermaelen is expected to follow before the end of the transfer window.
Mere looked to fit the bill of the Catalans with Sporting ready to cash in with the player following their relegation to the second division.
However, Sport already anticipated that Barcelona could face competition to secure his services, with Malaga, Valencia, Betis, Barcelona, Fiorentina and Sampdoria also having credited an interest in the player.
Recent reports in Spain claimed that Malaga were set to win the race as the Andalucian side offered Mere a chance to be a first-team regular and continue his development. Earlier this week it was said that the 20-year-old defender even underwent his medical at Malaga ahead of completing the move.
However, Köln have finally won the race in a sensational turnaround. "FC Köln have completed the signing of Jorge Mere. The 20-year-old Spaniard arrives from Sporting Gijon and has signed a contract with FC until June 30, 2022," the Bundesliga club have confirmed.
The Bundesliga side have failed to disclose the details of the agreement but Mundo Deportivo reports that they have paid around €9m (£8m, $10.4m) to complete his signing for Sporting.
Meanwhile, Mere has claimed that his priority was always joining Köln as the Germans will play the Europa League after they ended the 2016-2017 campaign in the fifth place of the Bundesliga table.
"I am looking forward to playing at 1. FC Köln and to prove myself in the Bundesliga and in the Europa League," Mere said. "FC is a club where you can develop very well as a young player. There were many rumours, but my goal was to always go to 1. FC Köln."