Barcelona have started succession planning for one of their biggest stars, with two options on the shortlist to eventually replace striker Luis Suarez.

By 90Min
October 15, 2018

Barcelona have started succession planning for one of their biggest stars, with two options on the shortlist to eventually replace striker Luis Suarez.

The Uruguayan forward has won three La Liga titles, four Copas del Rey and the Champions League since joining from Liverpool in the summer of 2014. However, at the age of 31, there is growing concern among those at Camp Nou that he will only produce diminishing returns as his form wanes.

A report from SPORT claims that while Barça do not wish to 'retire' their current number nine, they would like to find another striker, in the same mould, capable of rotating with Suarez or even to play alongside him in the preferred attacking three for the short-term.

The report insists that one of the pre-requisites of the search is that a new striker is 'affordable' thus ruling out a player like Harry Kane, despite his obvious talent. In addition, a European forward is also preferred due to Spanish regulations allowing only three squad places for players outside the European community.

As a result, the report identifies Nicolas Pépé and Krzysztof Piatek as the two (realistic) names in the frame for Barça as they hunt for a new front man.

The 23-year-old Pépé, while an Ivory Coast international, was born in France thus negating the need to give up a non-EU spot in Barça's squad.

Normally played on the wide right of a front three rather than through the centre, Pépé has scored six in nine at the start of the Ligue 1 season for Lille and is also being monitored by Bayern Munich and Unai Emery's Arsenal.

Poland international Piatek, who is also 23, has been one of the revelations of the 2018/19 season so far and sits atop the leaderboard in the early stages of the race for the European Golden Shoe, with nine goals in seven outings for Genoa in Serie A.

A more traditional 'number nine', who is drawing comparisons with compatriot Robert Lewandowski, Piatek only moved to Genoa from KS Cracovia for €4m in the summer, but is already being touted for a move worth well over ten times that as Europe's biggest pay attention to his early season form.

SPORT claims Pépé would be the cheaper option at €30m, while Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport (via Mundo Deportivo) has slapped a €60m price tag on Piatek, who has been linked with Napoli, Liverpool and Bayern among several others.

Speaking on Barça's reported interest, Piatek recently said: "I have heard that Barcelona want to sign me, but I do not believe it. I did very well last season and felt I needed to move on and I have only been here for two months helping my team, but who knows what the situation will be next year." 

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