By Wayne Veysey| Chief Correspondent
Arsenal have made a formal approach for David Villa as they prepare a second bid for Atletico Madrid striker Adrian Lopez, Goal.com can reveal.
The Londoners remain in talks with Atletico to sign Adrian after tabling an opening offer of around £10 million, (€12m) which was revealed by Goal.com earlier this week.
But Arsenal will not push through the deal for Adrian until they are definitively told by Barcelona that Villa is not available for a transfer this month.
|Martin Langer | Goal.com Spain
The transfer of David Villa makes sense on every different level for Barcelona.
To start with, it is clear that the player hasn’t been the same for Barcelona since he returned from his broken leg and sources from within the club say that the staff is starting to doubt that he could ever return to form.
Even if he does, he wouldn’t be playing in his favourite central position because it’s Lionel Messi’s property and, barring a very unlikely injury to the Argentina star, Villa would again be relegated to playing on the wings where he faces the ferocious competition of Pedro, Alexis, Tello, Cuenca and even Iniesta, who has been playing there as of late.
It is no secret that Villa wants to play and every day he spends on the bench his market value drops, so it would be logical that Barça would try to cash in on a player who doesn’t seem to be essential for the team’s short- or long-term plans.
Arsene Wenger is a long-time admirer of Villa, who turned 31 last month, and is prepared to pay up to £13.8m (€17m) to sign him on a permanent deal and match his current €136,000-a-week wages.
Goal.com understands that Wenger has learned that Spain’s all-time leading goalscorer is keen to join Arsenal and make what would be a sensational move to Emirates Stadium after growing frustrated with his lack of opportunities at Camp Nou.
But Barcelona are playing hardball and remain reluctant to off-load such a valuable asset ahead of a twin assault on the Champions League and La Liga titles. The Catalan club have rejected the possibility of Villa going out on loan until the end of the season.
Arsenal are prepared to bide their time even though they have made bolstering their strikeforce a top priority in the window.
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.
Arsenal will only sign one senior frontman this month and Wenger’s sights are now firmly set on either Villa or fellow Spain international Adrian.
It is understood that a fee of €14.8m could be enough to push through the Adrian deal, which is lower than the €18.1m release clause in the forward’s contract.
Goal.com understands that Arsenal opened negotiations with Atletico to sign the 24-year-old before Christmas. As revealed by Goal.com 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.
Villa’s potential availability has prompted a slight change of approach but it is uncertain whether Barca will come to the negotiating table.
Meanwhile, Arsenal have been encouraged in their pursuit of Adrian by the knowledge that he has a buy-out clause in his contract.
The Premier League club initially stopped short of triggering it with their first offer, as they try to take advantage of Adrian’s diminished status in Diego Simeone’s title-challenging team.
Despite scoring for the Spanish national team this season, the forward has started just six of Atletico’s 17 La Liga matches, scoring two goals.
Nevertheless, Wenger has received excellent feedback from his scouts on Adrian, who has the versatility to play anywhere across the front three and has been hailed in some quarters as the new Villa.
He has a proven scoring record at age-group level for his club and Spain, won the Golden Boot at the 2011 European Under-21 Championship – scoring five goals for the tournament winners – and followed that up with 18 goals for Atletico last season.
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