Leeds United lead race to sign Barcelona's Junior Firpo; Milan, Inter also interested - sources

Premier League side Leeds United are leading the race to sign Barcelona defender Junior Firpo, sources have told ESPN.

Firpo, 24, is also wanted by Southampton and several Italian sides, but Leeds have stepped up negotiations with Barca over the last few days and the left-back is keen to make the switch to Elland Road.

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Barca and Leeds are still in talks regarding the structure of the deal. They need to agree on a price and on whether the English side sign Junior outright or on loan with a clause to make the move permanent next summer.

Leeds' director of football Victor Orta has played a key role in selling the club to Junior, who wants to leave Barca in search of regular action and feels he would fit well in Marcelo Bielsa's system.

Southampton, who are looking for a replacement for Ryan Bertrand, have also sounded out a move for Junior this summer, while AC Milan and rivals Inter Milan are also interested.

However, Barca prefer a permanent move to a loan and the English clubs are in the best position to pay a fee.

Junior joined Barca for an initial €18 million from Real Betis in 2019 with the final cost rising to as much as €30m based on a series of add-ons.

Sources have told ESPN that the Catalan club want to pay off the amortisation on that transfer, which is somewhere between €10.8m and €18m depending on how many add-ons have been met.

In two seasons at Camp Nou, Junior, a former Spain Under-21 international, has made 41 appearances for the first-team.

He has featured at left-back, right-back and as part of a back three, but failed to dislodge Jordi Alba from the starting lineup and played just seven times in La Liga last season.

Barca, whose gross debt is over €1 billion, need to bring in money this summer to help fund arrivals and also need to reduce the wage bill to be able to register new players within the league-imposed salary cap.

Along with Neto, Samuel Umtiti, Miralem Pjanic, Philippe Coutinho and Martin Braithwaite, Junior is one of the players who has been made available for a transfer.

Defender Jean-Clair Todibo has already left the club, joining Nice in a deal worth a potential €15.5m, and United States winger Konrad De La Fuente will move to Marseille this week for around €4m.