Barcelona are poised to make their first signing of the summer after Gremio midfielder Arthur Melo confirmed he will join the club this month.
Barca and Gremio had originally agreed for a deal to be done in January, upon the conclusion of the Brazilian season, but a number of factors led the La Liga champions to fast-track the transfer.
Andres Iniesta’s decision to leave the club opened up a space in midfield, while Yerry Mina’s struggles to adapt after arriving last January left Barca sceptical about another midseason signing.
“Barcelona have asked to bring my arrival forward to this summer,” Arthur explained in a news conference on Friday.
“I did not participate in the negotiations, nor did I participate directly in my transfer — it has been a matter between the two clubs.
“I will probably travel to Barcelona this weekend. There are still details [to be finalised] but I’m very happy to be able to wear the shirt of the club I have always dreamed of playing for, the biggest club in the world.
“I have been told wonderful things about the club, the city and the fans. I have high expectations about the move.”
Barcelona and Gremio had originally agreed an initial fee of €30 million with an additional €9m potentially due in add-ons.
However, sources close to the deal have confirmed that Barca have had to pay an additional fee in order to complete the transfer six months early.
Arthur, 21, joined Gremio in 2010 as a teenager and played a key part in their Copa Libertadores triumph last season.
Former Barca sporting director Robert Fernandez watched him play in the final at the end of last year and later gifted him the club’s home shirt, which he was seen wearing.
Barca finally confirmed that an agreement had been struck with Gremio to sign Arthur earlier this year, although the move wasn’t supposed to be completed until January.
The midfielder, who was on the backup list for Brazil’s World Cup squad, admits he’s sad to leave Gremio but says he will be back in the future.
“I have spent seven years fighting for Gremio and the Arena Gremio is one of the places where I most like to be,” he added. “I am eternally grateful to everyone at Gremio.
“This is a see you later rather than a goodbye. I hope to come back one day. I’m very proud to leave the club through the front door.”
The arrival of Arthur leaves Barcelona oversubscribed on their quota of non-EU players.
Philippe Coutinho, Paulinho and Mina fill the three spots, although the club are exploring the possibility of obtaining a Portuguese passport for the former Liverpool player through his wife.
Failure to do so, though, would leave them needing to free up a space for Arthur, who is expected to begin preseason with his new teammates on July 11.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.