Gerard Deulofeu has poured fresh doubt over a possible return to Barcelona after praising AC Milan's role in turning his career around. The 23-year-old is on a six-month loan in Serie A after making just four Premier League starts during the first half of the campaign with parent club Everton.
Deulofeu's career has been reignited by the Rossoneri with 10 appearances in all competitions – which has yielded a goal and three assists – helping him earn a recall to the senior Spain squad for matches against Israel and France. But his upturn in form has intensified speculation over his club future.
Barcelona have an option to re-sign Deulofeu in either of the next two transfer windows for €12m (£10.3m) and will have been monitoring his success in Italy closely. He could yet return to Everton or extend his loan move at the San Siro during a summer likely to be partly dominated by the future of the winger.
However, having reclaimed his place in the Spain squad under Julen Lopetegui, Deulofeu is keen to focus on the remainder of this term before attention turns to next season. "Barcelona's interest? I expected that question!" Deulofeu told reporters, according to Goal.com.
"It is great to hear these things, but if I didn't think in the present I would lose my mind. In football, I have learned to forget the past, think about the present and the future will come as may – thinking about it would be a mistake. Currently I'm on loan at Milan, I'm owned by Everton and Barcelona have a buyback option. Right now I'm only thinking about Milan and the Spanish national team.
"If I had not accepted Milan then I definitely wouldn't have been called to the national team. It is a great club and right now I am not thinking about anything else. I am very happy at Milan, the coach and his staff have given me a lot of confidence and I'm also happy with the relationship with my team-mates. When I learned of the interest from Milan I didn't think twice about it. If I'm in this form then it is thanks to the trust everyone at Milan has placed in me."
Speculation that Barcelona could yet exercise the option to re-sign Deulofeu was strengthened after technical director Robert Fenandez claimed it was "good news" that the club could still activate the clause, included in his contract when he moved to Goodison Park permanently in June 2015.