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Atletico ready to swoop for Nolito under Barcelona’s noses

Atleti seem to be close to pulling one over on their domestic rivals

David Ramos/Getty Images

Spanish media outlet AS report that Atleti are set to beat Barcelona to the signing of Celta Vigo's Nolito.  The 29-year-old is coming off the back of a stellar season in which he contributed to his team's cause with 12 goals and 7 assists. His performances were impressive enough to earn him a call-up to Spain's European Championship squad, where he will be keen to attract even further interest from clubs across the continent.

Despite reports from Sport of an agreement being in place between Barca and Nolito since January, the La Liga winners are more focused on shoring up other parts of their squad, most notably central defence. The stalling by the Catalan club could offer a chance for other suitors of the Spanish international, most notably Atletico, to make their move on the attacker. It's thought that Barcelona are stalling on paying the €18m release clause in Nolito's contract, with Atleti reported to be more keen on splashing the cash in order to get their man. With interest being shown in Luciano Vietto by Celta, there's even the possibility that a deal could be struck which would see both clubs ending up with the players they desire to sign.

The summer transfer window will be disrupted by the ongoing Copa America, European Championships and Olympics, which begin in early August, with teams keen to get their business sorted earlier than usual. The same method applies for Atleti. In the last few weeks there has been constant speculation regarding their potential interest in signing Benfica's Nico Gaitan and coupled with the rumoured talks surrounding a deal for Nolito, it seems as if the board are eager to improve the squad as soon as possible before any distractions set in. The scare that came about last week following the murmurings of a potential exit for Diego Simeone may have helped those in charge of player recruitment realise the need to support their iconic manager in the transfer market. Signing players of the quality of Nolito and Gaitan should go a long way to persuading Simeone to stick around even longer.