Barcelona monitor Liverpool targets Naby Keita and Leon Goretzka amid Philippe Coutinho struggle

George Flood
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Having been repeatedly frustrated in their expensive and protracted pursuit of Philippe Coutinho, Barcelona are now said to be keeping close tabs on two noted Liverpool transfer targets in Naby Keita and Leon Goretzka.

That is according to Spanish daily Mundo Deportivo, who suggest that the Catalan giants are tracking the duo. They also claim that Barcelona technical secretary Robert Fernandez and assistant Urbano Ortega travelled to watch both highly-rated young midfielders go head-to-head on Saturday (19 August) as Goretzka, who is compared to Ivan Rakitic, and Schalke inflicted a 2-0 defeat on Keita's RB Leipzig in their 2017-18 Bundesliga opener at Veltins-Arena.

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German Confederations Cup star Goretzka's current contract is due to expire in June 2018 and Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Bayern Munich have all been linked with the 22-year-old, who insisted earlier this summer that he did not have an agreement in place with any suitor and exasperatedly claimed that the persistent transfer speculation was "really getting on my nerves".

He also denied speculation that he had already spoken with Reds boss Jurgen Klopp.

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Keita emerged as Liverpool's priority target following the club-record addition of Mohamed Salah and the Premier League outfit failed with two bids for his services worth £57m ($73m) and £66m respectively. There were suggestions that a third offer of £75m was also being prepared, although it now seems that Klopp will resume his stalled chase for the Guinea international next summer when the £48m release clause in his current Leipzig contract becomes active.

Mundo tentatively suggest that Keita could be seen by Barcelona as a potential alternative to the unsettled Coutinho. The Brazilian now looks set to stay at Anfield beyond the end of the window after Liverpool rejected a third approach valued at around the £114m mark and did not experience any late change of heart before the end of a weekend deadline imposed by the Blaugrana.

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However, Leipzig, who finished as runners-up in their very first season in the top-flight of German football, have been consistent in their hardline stance regarding a refusal to sell any key players before a maiden foray into the Champions League.

Barcelona have already moved to strengthen their midfield with the divisive addition of former Tottenham Hotspur flop Paulinho, while rumours abound regarding an imminent switch to the Nou Camp for Nice's Jean Michael Seri. The club are yet to agree a contract extension with veteran Andres Iniesta and the likes of Sergi Roberto, Arda Turan, Andre Gomes and Denis Suarez have all been subject to interest from elsewhere.

Los Cules are still being frustrated in their attempts to install Borussia Dortmund's Ousmane Dembele as the long-term replacement for Neymar, who joined Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222m deal earlier this month. A failure to land Coutinho could also result in former Real Madrid winger Angel Di Maria being coaxed back to Spain from PSG.

Naby Keita and Leon Goretzka

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