Barcelona will meet with Oriol Romeu‘s agent as they step up their interest in the Girona midfielder, sources have told ESPN.

Romeu, 31, came through Barca’s academy before moving to Chelsea in 2011 and has been singled out as a low-cost option to replace the outgoing Sergio Busquets.

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Real Sociedad‘s Martin Zubimendi and Bayern Munich‘s Joshua Kimmich were coach Xavi Hernandez’s first-choice targets but the Catalan club’s financial situation has forced them to look elsewhere.

“We need to strengthen [at the base] of the midfield but we are in a tricky situation [financially],” Xavi said at the launch of his soccer school on Thursday.

“We don’t have the privilege of being able to sign who we want, so we have to adapt.”

There have already been calls between Barca and Romeu’s camp to sound out a deal and sources have told ESPN the club now want a meeting with his agent to take the negotiations to the next step.

The former Chelsea and Southampton midfielder has a release clause of around €8 million ($8.7m) but Barca don’t plan to pay that amount.

Romeu, who spent seven years in Barca’s academy before joining Chelsea, would welcome a return to the club but is keen for any departure to be on good terms with Girona.

Since Busquets, who will join Inter Miami, announced he would not extend his contract, Barca have been combing the market for a deep-lying midfielder to replace him.

Xavi has said one of the keys to next season will be how well they replace Busquets, but options such as Zubimendi, Kimmich and Marcelo Brozovic, who recently signed for Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr, have all been deemed unaffordable.

That has led Barca to Romeu, while they are also considering in-house options, including Nico Gonzalez, who spent last season on loan at Valencia.

Gonzalez, 21, can play across the midfield and is well-liked by sporting directors Mateu Alemany and Deco, but sources have told ESPN that Xavi is more in favour of bringing in someone with more experience.

“Nico will come back and do preseason with the first team and from there we will decide,” Xavi said on Thursday.

Xavi and Romeu were briefly teammates at Barca. The latter made two appearances under Pep Guardiola in 2010-11 and, while he was part of the the B team, he often trained with the first team.

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Barcelona set up agent talks to seal Romeu transfer – sources