Barcelona will only be able to move for Paul Pogba this summer if they sell Arsenal target Ousmane Dembele.
The Catalan club missed out on Antoine Griezmann in the summer because they could not match the wages being offered to him by Atletico Madrid.
They then balked at Chelsea’s £70million asking price for Willian and opted instead for Bordeaux winger Malcom at less than half the price.
They are not in a financially strong enough position to pay Manchester United’s likely asking price for their 25-year-old France World Cup winner. But if they were to find a buyer for Dembele they could look at ways of bringing Pogba to the Nou Camp.
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has made personal contact with Dembele after he was knocked sideways by the club’s decision to sign Malcom – another youngster who plays in the exactly the same position on the wing.
Bartomeu has given Dembele assurances that he will not be sold and the former Borussia Dortmund winger was back in training on Monday ahead of schedule. But Barca coach Ernesto Valverde is not overly enamoured with Dembele and if the club had the opportunity to get their money back they would consider the move.
They paid £96m for the French international and will pay out a further £40m if he plays enough matches to activate all the add-ons on the deal.
Arsenal boss Unai Emery would love to add Dembele to his squad of attacking players and the 21-year-old is good friends with former Dortmund players Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, as well as compatriot Alexandre Lacazette.
Arsenal could make an offer to loan Dembele with a compulsory buy option if Emery can persuade the club to commit to breaking their transfer record.
Manchester United have also been linked with Dembele as a replacement for wantaway Anthony Martial, although there would be some reluctance over taking someone who failed to make an impression with Barcelona last season.
The sale of Dembele would allow Barcelona’s sporting director Eric Abidal to pursue Pogba but if there are no departures this summer then any bid would be postponed until next summer when the club will want to make their mark in the transfer market to counter an expected bid of over £180m from Real Madrid for Neymar.
Barca are also wary of the possibility that Pogba’s availability is being pushed to help his demands for an improved contract at Old Trafford. For that reason, among others, Real Madrid have so far stayed out of the Pogba situation.
The club’s president Florentino Perez has always shied away from taking players from Mino Raiola. When they signed James Rodriguez in 2014, Raiola said: ‘Madrid is a club that buys a player just because he plays six games well in the World Cup.’
He was also quoted in L’Equipe as saying: ‘Madrid buy players the way some people buy bath towels and then throw aside. We are not interested in a club like that.’
While Perez remains Real Madrid president, business with the Spanish giants is difficult. That leaves the field clear for Barcelona, but they simply do not have the funds to match Manchester United unless they sell Dembele.