Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone has admitted that winger Yannick Carrasco could be set to leave the club for China, while suggesting that the Belgium international will make the final call on the move.
Reports in Spain have claimed that Chinese club Dalian Yifang have been negotiating a €30 million deal for Carrasco, 24, who has not started for Atletico since early January with the availability of Spain internationals Diego Costa and Vitolo having curtailed his opportunities.
Speaking after Atletico had secured a 5-1 aggregate passage to the Europa League last 16 by beating FC Copenhagen 1-0 at home on Thursday night, the Rojiblanco coach said Carrasco was an important member of his squad and the transfer had not yet been finalised.
"It is an important departure, he is young and with a great future, is important for our team," Simeone said. "These are decisions for the players and we will see if it happens or not."
Other reports have claimed that Dalian Yifang have also made a €15m net-a-year salary offer to veteran Atletico striker Fernando Torres. Simeone played down a local media report of a falling out between the two former teammates, while not denying that they may have a difference of opinion over whether Torres, 34, gets a new contract to stay beyond the summer.
"People were clearly looking to make a controversy from my words," Simeone said. "That is no good for anyone. He and I, from our own positions, both want the best for the club."
Atletico unexpectedly crashed out of the Champions League before Christmas, and the €100m outlay last summer on Costa and Vitolo has led to further financial issues at a club which has historically always had to work the transfer market to balance the books.
Simeone appeared to suggest that he did not have the final say on what players would be allowed to leave for the Chinese market before the window there closes on Wednesday Feb. 28.
"It is clear that I do not make the final decision, although I participate and give my opinion," he said. "I will be watching the Chinese market until the 28th, but it will be a decision for whoever decides to go and play in Chinese football."
Out-of-favour playmaker Nico Gaitan was widely expected to leave, but reported moves to Swansea and Zenit Saint-Petersburg broke down, and he now looks to be back in Simeone's plans after getting a half hour as a substitute in Thursday's game against Copenhagen.
"Gaitan gets another opportunity, he was back with us as he did not leave in January," the coach said. "I always had confidence in him. Not putting him in his best position stopped him from expressing himself best.
"We gave him 30 minutes today, and he began to show that he has pace, great vision of the play. I hope that Nico can bring us important things in these months for the good of the team."