Arsenal and Manchester United have suffered a blow in the pursuit for French youngster Aymeric Laporte as the player is reportedly keen on a move to Barcelona, according to Spanish reports.
The young defender is proving to be a sensation in Spain this season and a fans' poll recently adjudged him the best centre-back in La Liga, alongside with Villareal's Mateo Musacchio.
Sport claims Barca's sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta has evidence that Laporte would love to wear the Blaugrana shirt – and the Catalans have been monitoring the player since last summer.
However, Laporte is also passionate about Athletic, particularly after the Basque club qualified for the Champions League, and Barca will find it hard to prise him away.
Last December Laporte signed a new deal at Athletic until 2018, with a £30m release clause, and his club are not willing to negotiate a cut-price deal. Club president Josu Urrutia has recently warned that there is no margin of negotiation unless the Catalans pay his release clause.
Reports in Spain have suggested Barca are considering meeting the buy-out clause, as boss Tata Martino sees him as the long-term successor to 35-year-old Carles Puyol. However Barca continue to monitor other Premier League players including Chelsea star David Luiz and Tottenham centre-back Jan Vertonghen.
Arsenal and United have both been monitoring Laporte since last summer and the Premier League sides are planning to mount an offensive in June to outbid the Catalans.