Barcelona manager Xavi has confirmed he held talks with Atletico Madrid striker Alvaro Morata over a transfer to Camp Nou last summer.
Morata, who had two stints playing for Clasico rivals Real Madrid, has managed 12 goals in 17 appearances for Atletico this season and heads into Sunday’s game with Barcelona tied for fourth in La Liga’s scoring charts alongside Robert Lewandowski.
Things could have looked a lot different had Xavi got his way, however. Ahead of the match, the Barca boss confirmed he tried to lure Morata away from Atletico before ultimately settling on a loan deal for teammate Joao Felix.
“It’s true that I wanted to sign him. There was that possibility,” he confessed. “I was talking to him and I wanted him in the team, but it couldn’t happen.
“He’s a forward that I really like. Morata is a great forward. He is a generous footballer, who works a lot for the team, he works a lot. He goes very well into spaces and helps his teams a lot. I really like him a lot. With him and with [Antoine] Griezmann, Atletico has a world-class forward line.”
Rather than Morata, it was Felix who made the move from Atletico to Barcelona, where he has managed just one goal in La Liga.
Xavi is hoping that Felix will see the chance to get one over on his old side, to whom he is still contracted until 2029, as an opportunity that cannot be missed.
“Playing against your old team is an added motivation,” he said. “He is motivated, happy and consistent. I am delighted with his performances and how he has adapted to the team.
“I wasn’t at Atletico with him. Here we have seen a really happy Joao Felix, hard working, dynamic, loved in the dressing room and a joker. He works hard for the team and scores important goals. I have no complaints.”