Barcelona face an unexpected transfer dilemma with reports in Spain claiming Javier Mascherano had asked to leave the club in January before Samuel Umtiti suffered a serious hamstring injury during the weekend's 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo.
Mundo Deportivo claims on its Monday front cover (4 December) that the La Liga giants will try to convince Mascherano to stay as the Argentina international could have the chance to recover his first-team role in the coming games, with the Catalans visiting Real Madrid for the first El Clasico of the La Liga campaign on 23 December.
However, the Spanish publication says that Barcelona are already planning for life without the Argentine with Colombia international Yerri Mina having re-emerged as an option to replace Mascherano for the second-half of the season.
Ernesto Valverde has reiterated in recent weeks that that Barcelona would not sign a new centre-back in January unless one of his current defenders departs or suffers a long-term injury.
The Spanish boss had been satisfied with his options with Mascherano and Thomas Vermaelen serving as back-ups for Gerard Pique and Umtiti.
Barcelona were therefore expected to focus their attention this January on bolstering their midfield with a new playmaker following their unsuccessful attempts to sigh Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool during the summer transfer window.
Mundo Deportivo insist that the Liverpool ace remains a top priority for Valverde while recent reports have claimed that the Catalans are also considering Gremio starlet Arthur as an alternative.
But Barcelona may need to change their plans following latest developments regarding Umtiti and Mascherano.
The France international has been ruled out for at least eight weeks due to a hamstring injury, meaning that he will miss the upcoming trip to Real Madrid and all the fixtures in January.
Hours after Barcelona confirmed Umtiti's blow, it emerged that Mascherano had already asked the club to leave the Nou Camp once the transfer window reopens in January.
Last week, the Argentina international admitted that his days at Barcelona were coming to and end amid suggestions that he was set to leave the club in the summer.
"I think so. My stage here is ending. It makes sense that after such a long time there's not much more I can do in this club. I'm not saying it with a heavy heart. I've had the best years of my career in this club. I'll never forget it," Mascherano said.
"I'm one of those people that thinks that you have to know when is the right time to end a stage. I would like to close mine [at Barcelona] on the right time but it doesn't really depend on me [he still has one year and a half left in his contract]. I am predisposed to close it on time because when I left Liverpool it wasn't good for me, and I didn't like it. I didn't like having the feeling that I could go back to Liverpool and there was still something toxic there. And I don't want the same thing to happen to me at Barcelona."
Mundo Deportivo claims that Mascherano asked the club to leave in January days before Umtiti's injury blow.
The Argentine is currently on the sidelines but he barely played prior to the injury due to the unmovable presence of Umtiti and Pique in the heart of the back-line.
The Spanish publication claims that Mascherano's preference would be to go to the Chinese Super League in January in order to secure regular game time to improve his fitness ahead of the World Cup next summer.
And they claim that Barcelona will now try to convince Mascherano to reconsider his plan.
The report says that Mascherano's agent Walter Tamer is already in Barcelona and is expecting to meet with club officials in the coming days to find a solution.
The Catalans have been linked with a number of centre-backs in recent months with the club planning to make a big investment in a new defender in the summer.
However, Mundo Deportivo claims that, if Barcelona fail to convince Mascherano to stay, the club will have to bring forward their plans and sign Yerry Mina from Palmeiras in January.
Barcelona have a first option to sign the 23-year defender in a deal worth €9m (£7.9m, $10.6m) which could be activated either in January or next summer.
It has been said that Valverde wanted to delay his arrival until the summer with Vermaelen also expected to leave at the end of the season. However, the Catalans may need to bring him in during a January transfer window which could be especially busy at the Nou Camp.