Barcelona join race for Chelsea target Stones

Barcelona's coach Luis Enrique gestures during a training session at the Sports Center FC Barcelona Joan Gamper in Sant Joan Despi, near Barcelona on August 22, 2015 on the eve of the first Spanish League "La Liga"  football match against Athletic Bilbao in Bilbao. FC Barcelona have seemed invincible after its colossal triple-Liga Cup-Champions League in the spring, but the Catalan ogre addresses the defense of its Spanish title with significant gaps before facing Bilbao tomorrow for the 1st day of Liga. AFP PHOTO/ JOSEP LAGO

La Liga champions Barcelona are understood to be in the hunt for a centre-half and reports from Spain say the Catalans are considering moving in on Chelsea’s target John Stones.

Barcelona will be looking to revamp their centre-back options in January with one of John Stones, Aymeric Laporte, Marquinhos and Jose Maria Gimenez.

According to Mundo Deportivo, sporting director Robert Fernandez believes La Blaugrana’s backline needs freshening up with the future in mind.

Although Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano remain Barca’s first-choice partnership, with Marc Bartra, Jeremy Mathieu and Thomas Vermaelen on standby, the Argentine is now 31 and has not yet abandoned hopes of returning to midfield.

Elsewhere, Marc Bartra is expected to reassess his future next summer if he continues to play second-fiddle behind Pique and Mascherano, while Jeremy Mathieu’s performances and Thomas Vermaelen’s long-term fitness have come under scrutiny.

Consequently, Robert has assembled four defensive targets between the ages of 20 and 21, whom he feels can lead the club into the next decade.

First name on his shortlist is Laporte, who has already played over 100 games for Athletic Bilbao but would likely warrant a sizeable transfer fee, given he recently signed a new contract with a €50m release clause and holds Basque status.

Further down the list are Marquinhos, who MD claim is “the perfect candidate but impossible dream” after two previously-failed bids to lure him away from Paris Saint-Germain, and Everton’s John Stones, although British players have historically struggled at Camp Nou.