Arsenal are thought to be preparing a £15m January move for Barcelona benchwarmer David Villa.
The World Cup and European Championship winning Spaniard has fallen down the pecking order at Camp Nou, becoming a regular substitute under new boss Tito Villanova this season.
And the Gunners are set to capitalise on Villa’s uncertain role with the Catalan outfit, with Goal.com reporting Arsenal have already made a formal enquiry with a view to a transfer.
But with Gunners boss Arsene Wenger on the lookout for a dynamic forward to supplement the pace of Theo Walcott and power of Olivier Giroud, he could steal a march on his rivals this month.
Giroud has done well in patches since his £12m switch to the Emirates last summer, while Walcott has recently proved why he deserves a striking role with the hat-trick against Newcastle, but has yet to agree a new deal at the club.
Sources suggest the former Southampton prodigy is close to signing a fresh contract at Arsenal, but Wenger is prepared to push through a move for Villa even if he does.
While the North Londoners continue to look at Atletico Madrid’s versatile forward Adrian Lopez – who has a £14m release clause – Villa now appears to be their first-choice target.
The 31-year-old is slightly older than your typical Wenger signing, but given the ex-Valencia striker’s pedigree the Frenchman may well make Villa an exception to his usual strict transfer rules.
What makes the deal intriguing is Villa’s apparent intention to move from Barcelona, where he has played a bit-part role since recovering from a horrendous leg break last season.
That injury forced him out of Euro 2012 – which Spain won – and this campaign he has played 18 times for Barcelona, scoring just five goals.
With team-mate Lionel Messi flourishing in the centre forward role, Villa is competing for a spot on the wings with Alexis Sanchez, Pedro, and even youngsters Christian Tello and Thiago Alcantara.
Barcelona have ruled out the prospect of Villa leaving on loan till the end of the season, but Arsenal have been encouraged by the player’s motivation to move and could do a permanent deal in January.
£15m may be needed to secure Villa’s signature, who would welcome a move to the capital and the opportunity to play alongside international colleague Santi Cazorla.
Having sold Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas and most recently Alex Song to Barcelona, Arsenal have an existing business relationship with the La Liga giants who still owe the Gunners money from the Song deal.
With Arsenal having the cash reserves ready to put such a move in motion, Villa keen on the switch and Barcelona likely to accept the benefits of a transfer, there could well be truth in the rumours.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.