Barcelona yesterday described any deal for Cesc Fabregas as "dead" and admitted that next week's Champions League tie against Arsenal had been a draw they wanted to avoid.
Raul Sanllehi, Barcelona's director of football, helped lead the attempt to bring Fabregas back to Spain last summer, but, with Arsenal having rejected two bids, he revealed that there are no plans to revive their interest.
"Cesc is a great Catalan player. He played for us as a kid and he will be welcome back at Barcelona for the Champions League match," he said. "Right now, everything is dead regarding a transfer."
He added that the Spanish club are wary of the threat posed by Arsene Wenger's side. "Arsenal are one of the main challengers for the Champions League. We acknowledge how difficult it is going to be."
Arsenal will take Sanllehi's remarks about Fabregas with a pinch of salt after receiving a similar message from Barcelona last year prior to a concerted attempt to buy their captain. However, Barcelona's financial situation makes it difficult for them to fund the sort of deal that might tempt Arsenal.
According to their president, Sandro Rosell, Barcelona recorded a loss of £65m for 2009-10 and had debts of £272m. Rossell has said that Barcelona would not pay more than £42m (€50m) for Fabregas.
Arsenal are certain to reject any renewed offer that falls below £50m, particularly given the recent values that have been placed on leading Premier League players.
Barcelona spent only £3m during the January transfer window, with Sanllehi agreeing that Chelsea forward Fernando Torres was overpriced at £50m. "I was shocked," he said. "I felt the amount was very high. I know Barcelona would not do that signing. We would not even consider it."
The future of a third member of Spain's World Cup-winning squad is under the spotlight after Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina expressed his desire to compete for trophies.
He mentioned that Manchester United and Arsenal have been looking for a 'keeper. Arsenal made an offer for Reina last summer, but their interest has waned with the emergence of both Lukasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny.
"(Edwin) Van der Sar will hang up his gloves in the summer and Arsenal are looking for a keeper," said Reina. "I would like to be challenging for titles and in a team with a chance of winning things.
"Before, we were challenging for the Champions League and in the race for the title right until the end, but in the last couple of years we haven't been." (© Daily Telegraph, London)