Arsenal face Mudryk agony all over again as Xavi admits Barcelona liking for dream midfielder Arteta is desperate to sign

Xavi Hernandez, head coach of FC Barcelona, attends during the press conference before La Liga Match round 19 at Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper

Barcelona coach Xavi has spoken publicly of his admiration for an Arsenal transfer target after seeing the Gunners fail with a £53m approach over the weekend.

The Gunners are sat loud and proud at the top of the Premier League with a five-point buffer on Manchester City. Halfway through the season, they will have to maintain their excellent form during the second half to keep Pep Guardiola’s side at bay.

Having amassed 50 points from their 19 games so far, you can see here how their halfway tally matches up against previous champions.

If Arsenal are to be crowned champions, Mikel Artea knows team strengthening will be key. They have so far signed Leandro Trossard and Jakub Kiwior this month to bolster their attacking and defensive options. A third signing also looks close in the form of Real Vallodolid right-back Ivan Fresneda.

However, it is a new midfielder that Arteta truly craves. With Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey in excellent form in midfield, they do lack quality cover and competition were either to miss a period of games.

As such, Edu is chasing a new player to bolster the engine room this month.

Amid a plethora of links, it seems Real Sociedad’s Martin Zubimendi is the player they have settled on.

The 23-year-old has established himself as one of the leading midfielders in La Liga this season. And with a £53m (€60m) exit clause in his deal, Edu sniffed a chance to bring him to Arsenal.

Zubimendi, though, rejected the chance to move, staying loyal to his hometown club with the Txuriurdin in search of a first La Liga crown in 41 years.

Barcelona looking to hijack Arsenal move for Martin Zubimendi

Tuesday’s Euro Paper Talk, though, insists all is not lost for the Gunners. That’s amid reports claiming the player has opened the door to a summer move instead. And following talks with Edu, it’s reported Zubimendi is willing to switch to the Premier League once the current season is over.

Of course, that will count for very little until the ink on a contract is officially dry. And Arsenal know all too well not to count any chickens based on a player’s word as they found to their cost with Mykhaylo Mudryk recently.

Having chased the Ukrainian star for several months, Mudryk made several public noises about wishing to sign for Arsenal. All appeared on track until Chelsea nipped in at the 11th hour to snatch the signing.

Now it seems Edu is facing a repeat with Zubimendi and Barcelona.

And with Barcelona facing Sociedad in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday evening, Xavi has come out and publicly spoken of his admiration for the player.

Barcelona boss a huge admirer of Arsenal target

Xavi said of the player: “He (Zubimendi) is a more physical and faster player than Busquets, who is technically better. But not only Zubimendi, all of Real Sociedad’s midfield players. We are playing a great team and Zubimendi is a great footballer.”

Comparing the two sides and their ability to nurture their own talent, Xavi was again full of compliments for Sociedad.

“We work in the same way in grassroots football. But La Real works very well with the academy.”

And in dropping another hint at a move for Zubimendi, Xavi made his admiration clear.

“We lack a defensive pivot who is the future replacement for Busquets,” he teased.

With Busquests likely to move on this summer, Barcelona will likely prioritise a new defensive midfielder. And with Zubimendi emerging as their top target, Arsenal will have to be wary of history repeating itself.

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