Lionel Messi has admitted he would like his countryman Lautaro Martínez to join him at Barcelona.
22-year-old Martínez has played alongside Messi in Argentina’s frontline since making his senior international debut in 2018 and, in that time, both of them have found the back of the net nine times each for the national team.
Martínez was a regular scorer at Racing Club back home in Argentina, which earned him a move to Inter a matter of days after Argentina had been knocked out of the 2018 World Cup by France.
Barcelona have struggled for an out-and-out goalscorer this season, with Luis Suárez out injured for large parts of the campaign. Suarez’s injury, combined with what was assumed to be a season-ending injury for Ousmane Dembele, prompted the emergency signing of Martin Braithwaite to provide depth to the forward line.
Speaking to Mundo Deportivo, Messi admitted he wasn’t sure whether the club have been scouting Martínez or not, saying: “I’m not sure if there were or are any negotiations right now for him, I have no idea.”
But he insisted the club should be keeping tabs on his talented compatriot, adding: “I think I’ve already mentioned that Lautaro is an impressive forward, especially because I think he’s very complete. He’s strong, dribbles well, can score, knows how to protect the ball. But we’ll have to see what happens with him and other names that have been linked.”
Even if Uruguayan talisman Suárez hadn’t been injured, the club would still have likely been trying to source a long-term replacement for the 33-year-old. Antoine Griezmann has rarely been adopted as the furthest player forward for Barça, and the same could be said for Messi himself.
If Martínez was deemed the ideal heir, he certainly wouldn’t come cheap. Since joining Italian giants Inter, he has scored at an impressive rate, linking up well with Romelu Lukaku this season.
In the current climate of COVID-19 though, finances are likely to be more tight when football does finally return, putting lucrative transfers like this at risk.