Alex Grimaldo
Alex Grimaldo joined Benfica from Barcelona in 2015 Getty

Benfica left-back Alex Grimaldo has refused to rule out a potential return to Barcelona, the club he left in December 2015. The Spaniard also admitted "pride" at being linked with Manchester City, but insists his focus is on his career with the Portuguese giants.

The 21-year-old defender was at one time expected to be the long-term replacement for Jordi Alba at Barcelona after garnering a big reputation in La Masia.

However, in December 2015 he decided to move Benfica in a deal worth just €1.5m (£1.3m, $1.7m) after failing to make a first-team breakthrough.

Grimaldo wasted little time proving his worth in Portugal and enjoyed an impressive start to the this campaign, scoring two goals and providing three assists in the first eight games.

Both Diario Record and A Bola both reported at the time that Guardiola had been impressed by his development and even travelled to Portugal to watch him in action during a game against Braga.

O Jogo later added that Guardiola was considering making a move to lure him to the Etihad Stadium in January as he knows the player well from their time at Barcelona.

However, in October the former Barcelona starlet suffered a serious injury that disrupted his impressive campaign – and also muted speculation linking him with Manchester City.

Grimaldo returned to action last month to help Benfica lift the Liga Nos title and his name is expected to be linked again with a big-money move away from the club.

Asked by Cadena Cope whether a return to Barcelona could be a possibility, Grimaldo said: "I don't close the door to anyone, especially a club like Barcelona. Everything can happen. I am focused on my current team and I don't think beyond that. Whatever can come in the future we will see. I am very grateful to Barcelona because I spent many years there."

Meanwhile, pressed about his links to Manchester City, he said: "I have seen things [about the interest from City] but I don't give it much importance. Of course it is important and I am proud [to be linked with them] but I have to be focused because [playing well] is what makes me open those doors. I had the pleasure of meeting Guardiola when I was at Barcelona and I have a good relationship with him."

Guardiola is still interested in signing a left-back to replace Aleksandar Kolarov and Gaël Clichy, but recent reports suggest the Catalan boss has turned his attention to alternatives like Monaco's Benjamin Mendy and Juventus's Alex Sandro.