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Barcelona reach loan deal for Valencia centre-back Jeison Murillo

Lionel Messi and Barcelona made quick work of Levante, as the league leaders further solidified their position atop the table with another three points.

Barcelona have reached an agreement with Valencia to sign centre-back Jeison Murillo on loan until the end of the season, the Spanish champions have confirmed.

Sources revealed to ESPN FC earlier on Thursday that talks were ongoing between the two clubs to close an operation ahead of the January transfer window, with Valencia holding out for a fee in the region of €2 million for the six-month loan.

The deal also includes an option for the move to be made permanent in the summer for €25m. Whether Barca take that up will depend on if they're able to sign Ajax's Matthijs de Ligt, who has been their primary centre-back target for months.

Despite Barca's interest in de Ligt and his teammate Frenkie de Jong, Ajax CEO Edwin van der Sar told ESPN FC that neither will leave in January.

"I have fulfilled a dream today," Murillo told the team's official website. "I am coming with the intention of helping the team in whatever way possible and of trying to enjoy this."

Murillo, 26, arrived in Barcelona on Thursday and underwent a medical. He will not be available until January, though, so will not feature against Celta Vigo this weekend.

The Colombian, who is out of favour at Valencia, where he has made just three appearances all season, has been signed to provide cover and competition for Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet.

Following meetings at the club this week, Barca decided to turn to the market due to injuries to Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen.

Umtiti has struggled with a knee problem for over half a year but has resisted surgery, and has spent the past two weeks in Qatar undergoing conservative treatment and hopes to return to training in the New Year.

However, the club are wary that surgery may prove necessary in the end. Umtiti's last comeback attempt, against Atletico Madrid in November, lasted just one game.

Vermaelen, meanwhile, is out for the next month with a calf problem. The defender has suffered a number of injuries since joining Barca in 2014 and the club felt it would be risky to go into the second half of the season with him as their only backup to Pique and Lenglet.

The other option would have been to use a centre-back from the B team. Chumi has been involved with the first team sporadically this season but sources say coach Ernesto Valverde was keen to have a more experienced option.

After watching Real Madrid win the Champions League in each of the last three years, Barca are desperate to win the competition again and do not want to risk coming up short in the latter stages due to a lack of cover.

Murillo joined Valencia from Inter Milan in 2017 for around €12m, making 18 appearances last season before being cast aside by coach Marcelino this term. Gabriel Paulista, Ezequiel Garay, Mouctar Diakhaby and Ruben Vezo have all been preferred ahead of him in recent weeks.

A move to Camp Nou gives him the chance to play more regularly ahead of this summer's Copa America in Brazil, where he hopes to be part of the Colombia squad.

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