Barcelona failed in an attempt to sign Spain midfielder Saul Niguez in the summer, Atletico Madrid CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin has said.
Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu informed Atletico that the Catalan club were prepared to pay Saul’s €80 million buyout clause at the end of June.
However, by the time the approach was made, Saul had already signed a new deal with the Rojiblancos, which would be announced days later and saw his clause increase to €150m.
“Bartomeu called me to say he was looking for a player with Saul’s qualities and that he intended to pay his buyout clause,” Gil told Onda Cero.
“What Bartomeu didn’t know is that three days before we’d signed a new contract with Saul and his clause had increased from €80m to €150m.”
Barca moved for Saul in June, with Mundo Deportivo reporting at the time that they turned their attention to the 23-year-old after missing out on Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti.
Diario Sport added that there had been three meetings between Barcelona’s sporting director Robert Fernandez and Saul’s agents.
Asked about the rumours in the summer, Saul, who was with Spain under-21 side at the European Championship in Poland, said he was focused on the tournament, not his future.
However, just a few days later, Atletico confirmed that the midfielder had signed a mammoth nine-year contract extension, committing him to the club until 2026.
Barca eventually signed Paulinho from Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande for €40m to add competition in the middle of the field, but continue to be linked with more midfielders.
Mundo Deportivo reported on Friday that the club have a list of potential targets that includes Schalke’s Leon Goretzka, Gremio’s Arthur, Lyon’s Houssem Aouar and Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz.
Saul, meanwhile, has been an ever-present in Diego Simeone’s Atletico side this season, making 25 appearances in all competitions and scoring three goals, including one against Barcelona in October.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.