Atletico Madrid are surprised and angry at Joao Felix after the forward said he would “love to play for Barcelona” as he looks to force a move away from the club, sources told ESPN.
The Portugal international, 23, is back in preseason training with Atletico after spending the second half of last season away in an unsuccessful loan spell at Chelsea.
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“Barcelona has always been my first choice and I’d love to join Barca,” Felix told journalist Fabrizio Romano on Tuesday. “It was always my dream since I was a kid. … If it happens, it will be a dream come true for me.”
Sources close to Atletico told ESPN that Felix had “got everything wrong” in terms of the timing and manner of his comments.
The club had not been aware that the player was planning to speak publicly.
Barcelona have signed defender Inigo Martinez, midfielders Ilkay Gundogan and Oriol Romeu and forward Vitor Roque this summer — with the latter set to join in 2024 — but have yet to register their new arrivals.
Sources told ESPN that Barca were offered Felix in recent weeks, but because of the club’s delicate financial situation, they would only be able to sign him on loan.
The forward’s agent, Jorge Mendes, has a good relationship with Barca president Joan Laporta, and represents a number of the club’s players, including Ansu Fati, Alejandro Balde and Lamine Yamal.
Barca have been previously linked to Felix — he was discussed during the negotiations over the return of Antoine Griezmann to Atletico — but there is internal debate at the club between those who view him as an exceptional player, and others who question why he has failed to deliver on his potential.
Atletico believe that Felix’s aim in making Tuesday’s remarks was to avoid leaving with the squad on their preseason tour, with Atletico due to travel to South Korea, Mexico and the United States.
The only interest in Felix that Atletico have been made aware of has come from Aston Villa, sources said.
Felix’s relationship with coach Diego Simeone was not previously as bad as has been widely reported, but sources said that the player’s attitude in preseason training has been disappointing, and his relationship with teammates has also suffered.
Felix joined Atletico in a club record €126 million ($141m) move in 2019.
After an inconsistent three and a half seasons in Madrid, he joined Chelsea during this year’s January transfer window, making 16 Premier League appearances and scoring four goals.
ESPN’s Moises Llorens also contributed to this report.
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