Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta says Arsenal have not made a bid for striker David Villa, while also taking time to praise the club's rumoured transfer target Neymar.
Villa reportedly almost left Barca for the Gunners last January after growing frustrated with a bit-part role at the Camp Nou. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger also suggested towards the end of the transfer window that his club had made an inquiry about bringing Spain's record goalscorer to the Emirates Stadium.
However, Zubizarreta told Catalan station TV3 on Sunday that Barca had received no concrete bid from Wenger's side and that Villa remained a key player at the Camp Nou.
“We did not receive a written offer from Arsenal,” he said. “He is an important player for us. We have spoken a lot with him about his situation and his recovery [from long-term injury suffered in December 2011], because he continues to score goals and show his talent for finishing.”
Zubizarreta also spoke about the ongoing speculation around his side's interest in Brazilian starlet Neymar, which has ramped up again recently after Barca vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu appeared to confirm that the club would make a move should he decide to leave current side Santos.
“[Neymar] is a different type of player, he has talent, quality and the ability to make things happen,” the former Barca and Spain international goalkeeper said. “He has that profile.”
Looking forward to Tuesday's Champions League last 16 second leg against AC Milan, in which Barca must overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit, Zubizaretta said there was no need to go all out for goals from the first minute.
“We know what type of game it will be,” he said. “It will be long, it will not be decided in the first 20 minutes. We will not score the second goal before we get the first. Getting over-excited would not be good for us.”
Alexis Sanchez could start after the Chile international impressed with a goalscoring performance in Saturday's 2-0 La Liga win over bottom side Deportivo La Coruna, Zubizarreta hinted.
“[Sanchez] gives us intensity, rhythm, pace and the desire to want to help [his team-mates],” he said.
Asked how the club were managing the current absence of coach Tito Vilanova, the director said the situation was unprecedented and he expected Vilanova to return before the end of March.
“There is no book to teach you what to do [in this situation],” Zubizarreta said. “The most important thing is that he gets well. He looks good to me, upbeat, wanting to talk about football. At the end of this month he will be back in Barcelona."