Barcelona star Gerard Pique has claimed that "great talent" Hatem Ben Arfa would be welcome at the La Liga giants but added he was in the dark about the former Newcastle star's potential move to the Nou Camp. The Spanish centre-back, nevertheless, remembers Frenchman from the final of the European Under-17 Championship in 2004.
Ben Arfa has been heavily-linked with a move to Luis Enrique's side after the 29-year-old forward rediscovered his best form at Nice with 18 goals in 36 appearances. He has also recently been included in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year alongside the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Angel Di Maria.
Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere confirmed earlier this month negotiations between Barcelona and the player to lure him to the Nou Camp on a free-transfer, as he is out of contract at the Ligue 1 outfit at the end of the campaign. Ben Arfa later added fuel to the speculation after admitting his admiration for Barcelona's passing game.
Pique has now claimed he does not know anything about the rumoured negotiations but encourages his club to bring the former Newcastle star to La Liga. The Spaniard recalled being on the receiving end of Ben Arfa's skills during the European Under-17 in 2004 when, alongside the likes of Karim Benzema and Samir Nasri, the Frenchman tormented Spain in a 2-1 defeat in the final despite the Barcelona centre-back scoring a goal.
"I don't know anything about it. You should ask the president and his staff," Pique told L'equipe Magazine as quoted by Sport. "But yes I know Hatem well... I played a final of the European Under-17 Championship against him and France won 2-1 against Spain.
"He's a great talent. He was one of the most important players that France had at the time ... and all the players with great talent are welcome at Barcelona. But that I know nothing regarding his potential arrival to Barcelona."
However, reports in Spain in recent days have suggested that even though Barcelona have been monitoring his situation they have already ruled out his acquisition amid doubts about his consistency, following his ups and downs during his career in the Premier League both at Newcastle and Hull.
The forward also been snubbed by his country after France coach Didier Deschamps left him out of his 23-man squad for Euro 2016 despite his impressive campaign.