Soccer-Brazilian forward Vitor Roque set to join Barcelona in January

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Brasileiro Championship - Athletico Paranaense v Atletico Mineiro - Arena da Baixada, Curitiba, Brazil - September 2, 2023 Athletico Paranaense's Vitor Roque during the warm up before the match REUTERS/Rodolfo Buhrer/File Photo

(Reuters) -Brazilian forward Vitor Roque is set to join Spanish giants Barcelona in January after Club Athletico Paranaense said on Saturday that the 18-year-old will play his last home game against Santos on Sunday before heading to Europe.

Barca reached an agreement to sign Roque from Athletico in July for a reported 40 million euros plus 21 million in add-ons, with the player inking a seven-year contract.

Barcelona's financial struggles and their inability to comply with LaLiga's Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules have hampered the club's ability to register new signings over the last two seasons, and Roque's status is also unclear.

But with the club managing to create space in the salary cap due to the long-term knee injury to midfielder Gavi, they will be allowed to fit Roque in their squad in January, giving Barca a much-needed depth behind 36-year-old forward Robert Lewandowski.

Roque, who was sidelined for two months due to an ankle injury, returned to action last weekend playing 26 minutes in a goalless draw against Vasco. On Friday against Cruzeiro he played for 45 minutes and scored his first goal since September.

A product of the same Cruzeiro academy from which former great Ronaldo Nazario emerged, Roque joined Athletico at the start of 2022 and has scored 28 goals in 80 appearances. Last year he helped them reach the Copa Libertadores final.

He earned his first cap for Brazil in March, becoming at 18 years and 25 days the youngest debutant for the five-time world champions since a 17-year-old Ronaldo played for the first time with Brazil in 1994.

(Reporting by Fernando Kallás in Madrid; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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