Arsenal abandon pursuit of Barcelona star Villa

By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent

Arsenal have abandoned their pursuit of Barcelona striker David Villa, can reveal.

Arsene Wenger had made a formal approach for Spain’s all-time leading goalscorer but has reluctantly accepted that he will not be able to sign him this month.

Arsenal have made bolstering their strikeforce a top priority in the window and are now expected to centre their attention firmly on capturing Atletico Madrid’s Adrian Lopez, who they have targeted for a number of weeks. understands that a delegation from the London club had been set to fly out to Spain last week to hold talks with Barcelona over Villa.

However, the runaway Spanish league leaders made it clear in private discussions that the 31-year-old is not available either for a loan or permanent transfer this month even though the player had personally told Wenger he was keen to move to Emirates Stadium.

Villa has grown frustrated with his lack of opportunities at Camp Nou but the Blaugrana are playing hardball and are not willing to offload such a valuable asset ahead of a twin assault on the Champions League and La Liga titles.

Publicly, Barca have consistently dismissed suggestions that Villa could leave in the January window.

Head coach Tito Vilanova reiterated this stance following his team’s 3-1 win league win over Malaga on Sunday night.

“David is not going to leave,” Vilanova said. “We are very happy with him.”

Only Lionel Messi (37) has scored more goals than Villa (10) for Barcelona in all competitions this season, but the forward has started just 11 of the club’s 31 matches, including only six out of a possible 19 in La Liga.

Villa, who missed much of last season after breaking his leg, scored two goals in last week’s 5-0 Copa del Rey win over Cordoba but limped out of the match late on and then picked up a hamstring injury in training on Saturday which ruled him out of the trip to Malaga.

“We know how important he is to the team,” added Vilanova. “He scored twice the other day. He is still coming back from a long injury, and each time he gets more minutes. But he had some more problems. Last year we missed him a lot in the second half of the season.”

Wenger could make another move for Villa in the summer, when the player will have only a year remaining on his Barca contract.

Arsenal are expected to set their sights once again on Adrian after tabling an opening offer of around €12 million, which was revealed by earlier this month.

Wenger wants to sign a mobile, orthodox centre-forward this month who can play anywhere across his forward line and dovetail with his current first-choice spearheads Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud.

It is understood that a fee of €14.4m could be enough to push through the Adrian deal, which is lower than the €17.7m release clause in the forward’s contract. understands that Arsenal initially opened negotiations with Atletico to sign the 24-year-old before Christmas. As revealed by in October, Arsene Wenger has been closely pursuing Adrian, as he is known in his homeland, for months after failing to sign him last summer.

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