Report: Barcelona want Koke as Xavi Hernandez replacement

Koke

Chelsea and Manchester United's plans for Koke may be under threat, with Barcelona reportedly ready to swoop for the Atletico Madrid star.

As Barcelona plan for life after Xavi Hernandez, with the hugely influential midfield maestro set to complete a lucrative move to Qatar this summer, the sports directive at the Catalan giants is pinpointing specific targets that can fill the boots of their current first-team captain.

The principal target, according to Spanish outlet Sport, is none other than Atlético Madrid talent Koke, who is highly coveted by a number of leading European clubs, not least Premier League sides Chelsea and Manchester United, suggest outlets such as The Daily Star.

The 23-year-old Spain international has shown a level of maturity far beyond his years, with consistently stellar displays, both for his national team and Atletico Madrid. Koke's versatility and ability to play anywhere in midfield, along with his creativity and vision, are also a huge attraction for Barcelona.

It is also believed that over the last couple of days, while manager Luis Enrique has been locked in planning talks with the Barcelona sports directive, that Koke has been highlighted as a specific target request by the Asturian coach.

Such a move won't be without its difficulties though. Koke has often expressed his loyalty and desire to remain with Atletico Madrid, always hugely appreciative towards the club that forged him into the player he is today. Club president Enrique Cerezo has also suggested the player is 'untouchable' when it comes to transfer offers.

Barcelona were linked with a strong level of interest and a possible bid last summer. That move was rejected, but also lead Atletico Madrid to fast-forward contract improvements for Koke, who ultimately penned a new deal with the inclusion of a €60 million release clause - as reported by the Guardian.

While that clause perhaps won't dissuade the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United from making approaches this summer, it could mean a marked stepping up of their efforts, if they're to beat Barcelona to the capture of Koke. Therefore the resolve of Koke and Atletico Madrid may be put to the sternest of tests at the end of the season.

If must be recalled that although Barcelona can still negotiate deals for new signings, the FIFA transfer ban currently imposed on the Catalan club prevents them from officially registering players until January 2016.

In the meantime, however, Barcelona would have no problems reaching a pre-agreement with Koke or Atletico Madrid, if both were willing to accept such a move. The same applies to any other transfer targets too, but the Spanish midfield craftsman now seems the number one priority for the Catalan club.

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