Gelson Martins made his first-team debut for Sporting Lisbon last year.

Barcelona have sent scouts to Portugal to keep an eye on the progress of Sporting Lisbon winger Gelson Martins.

Gelson, 21, came through the academy at Sporting before making his first-team debut in 2015. He impressed in the Champions League defeat against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu last month and his form this season has earned him a call up to the Portugal squad for the upcoming games against Andorra and Faroe Islands.

Ariedo Braida, Barca’s international director of sports, has confirmed he is a player the Catalan side are keeping an eye on, telling Portuguese newspaper Record: “The only thing I can say is that we are watching Gelson.

“He’s a young player with a lot of talent who Barcelona are observing and will continue to observe. We have reports on various players and Gelson is one of them.”

However, Braida denied that Barca are preparing an imminent move for the player.

“A January signing? No,” he added. “We’re just watching him. We’ve not even spoken with anyone about Gelson.

“I won’t lie to you, we are following him, but we aren’t negotiating with anyone. Many players disappear with time, others grow. Gelson Martins has potential to be a great player and we will see how he evolves.”

Xavi feels that Barca’s relative struggles this year can be partly attributed to the increased competitiveness of La Liga.

Catalan newspaper Sport reports that Barcelona gave up the chance to sign Gelson in 2012 when they were offered their pick of players from Sporting’s academy because the Portuguese club couldn’t afford a payment they owed for the transfer of Jeffren Suarez.

However, despite considering Gelson, the Blaugrana reportedly opted for Edgar Ie and Agostinho Ca instead. Ie has since left the club and is currently playing for Villarreal B, while Ca is without a side after being released in the summer.

Gelson’s contract, signed last year, runs until the end of the 2020-21 season and his release clause is fixed at €60 million, according to Record.

Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.

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