Liverpool most in need of winning three-way race for Barca star

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If history teaches us anything, it’s that youth products that break into the Barcelona first team and stay there are destined for greatness.

La Masia’s famous production line is responsible for a host of Blaugrana icons, including Carlos Puyol, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and a certain Lionel Messi.

With high standards like that it’s only natural that a number of academy products fail to make the grade at the Nou Camp, but that doesn’t make them useless to the rest of the football world.

Stoke’s Bojan Krkric, Everton’s Gerard Deulofeu, Cesc Fabregas at Chelsea and Pepe Reina at Liverpool are a few past and present examples of La Masia cast offs thriving in the Premier League. This summer there appears to be a three-way battle to add another name to that list.

Marc Barta has found breaking the settled centre-back pairing of Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano extremely tough at Barcelona, making just 13 La Liga appearances this season as a result.

Rare outings in the famous blue and red have led to rumours that the defender could move after the current campaign, with Marca suggesting he could depart for around £9m.

Picking up the Spanish publication’s line, the Independent believe that fee will have Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool all licking their lips at snapping up the 25-year-old.

Of that trio Jurgen Klopp’s Reds appear the most in need of defensive cover, with Mamadou Sakho’s failed drugs test leaving the centre-back position under a cloud of uncertainty at Anfield.

Should the Frenchman cop a lengthy ban, then Liverpool will need extra bodies to support Dejan Lovren, Martin Skrtel,  and Kolo Toure in that area of the field, even with Schalke’s Joel Matip arriving in the off-season.

The German manager has already been left short at the heart of his defence through injuries this season, having to call on anchorman Lucas to deputise in times of need, so bolstering the back line would be a shrewd move in the summer.

Tottenham and United have less immediate need for centre-halves, with Kevin Wimmer proving a capable understudy for the north Londoners and Daley Blind adapting well when dropping back from midfield for the Red Devils.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.