Ilkay Gundogan is a midfielder Borussia Dortmund openly admit they may not be able to keep.
The 23-year-old has 18 months remaining on his contract, and appears open to considering moving on from last year's Champions League finalists.
Arsenal and Manchester United have both been linked with the eight-time capped German international, who has been out for almost the entire season so far with a back injury, and expected back in January.
Both Premier League sides were reported to be behind Real Madrid in the race for his signature, who were aiming to tie up a deal as part of a switch which would see Nuri Sahin move the other way permanently.
However Real Madrid risk being beaten to the punch by their bitter rivals - Barcelona.
Spanish newspaper El Confidencial report that negotiations have been opened between Gundogan and Barcelona.
"Barcelona see the player as able to provide ideal respite for Xavi Hernandez. Florentino Perez is leading in this matter, but Sandro Rosell has advanced in the last few days. As has been told to El Confidential, the father of Gundogan has over a few dates in Barcelona met with the leaders of Barcelona. The sale of the player of Dortmund is likely, but at the moment no club has closed the operation permanently.
"Barcelona wanted to force the situation to meet face to face with the father of midfielder. The Catalan club is aware of the situation which could give Real Madrid the advantage, but this interest in the player is important and why Sandro Rosell has opted for a more personal touch and direct (approach) to score points."
The paper hint that Gundogan's most likely move remains Real Madrid at present due to discussions Real have already had with Dortmund.
However Barcelona's interest is genuine, and with rumours they are open to selling Alex Song, Gundogan would be a surefire upgrade.
As for the Premier League sides, Arsenal have enough quality to feel Gundogan regardless of his qualities is a player they can cope without.
Manchester United meanwhile should rue another top target potentially slipping through the net, while their midfield continues to flounder from one defeat to another.
image: © Dirk_Vorderstraße