Ex-Barcelona chief reveals how close club came to signing Jude Bellingham and admits regret over failed transfer

FORMER Barcelona technical secretary Josep Moratalla has admitted the club were on the verge of signing Jude Bellingham before he joined Borussia Dortmund.

Bellingham signed for the German club in 2020 from Birmingham City for £21million.

The 18-year-old is now being linked with a £90m move to Liverpool after seeing his value sky-rocket in the last 18 months.

And Moratalla as revealed his regret at not signing the teenager before Dortmund did.

He told Spanish radio station Esport3: "We had Bellingham here before he signed for Dortmund, when I see now that Liverpool want to pay 100 million euros [£85m] I laugh.

"I have never understood why we never did more operations of these."

Bellingham is also a target for Manchester United and Bayern Munich, with the Germans the latest team to join the race for his signature.

It means a bidding war could ensue for the midfielder at the end of the season.

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A bidding war that Barcelona could have cashed-in on should they have signed Bellingham before Dortmund did.

The club are now in huge amounts of debt, with new boss Xavi restricted to free transfers and loan signings.

Lionel Messi was even forced to move on in the summer against his will due to the club's financial situation.

And Moratalla went on to claim the turmoil at the club is due to poor recruitment, rather than the coronavirus pandemic.

Moratalla added: "Beyond COVID, the problem of the club's economy has been the management of recent years, players who do not have the level of Barca have been signed at millionaire prices and now you can't compete with other clubs."

For example, Coutinho's mega-money £145m move from Liverpool has been a shambles.

Antoine Griezmann too failed to hit top gear after moving to Camp Nou, and the club made a £73MILLION loss on Griezmann in just two years.

The Frenchman joined for a staggering £107m and is currently on loan at Atletico Madrid, who have a £34m obligation to buy in the deal.

And then there's Ousmane Dembele.

The winger has shown promise at times, but is out of contract at the end of the season and a target for Manchester United.

He joined Barcelona for a reported £120m in 2017, meaning the club have spent over £370m on those three players alone in the last four years alone.

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