Barcelona forward and Arsenal target David Villa has reportedly told the Catalans he wants to leave the club before the end of the January transfer window.
The Spain international was heavily linked with a move to Arsenal in this window but the north London side were put off by the public rebuttals made by some of the Camp Nou chiefs, including manager Tito Vilanova and club president Sandro Rosell.
However, despite Vilanova and Rosell's claims, Villa has now put in a transfer request due to his failure to earn a regular spot in the club's first team, according to the Daily Mail.
The news will comes as a major boost to Arsene Wenger, who is understood to be keen on strengthening attacking options after seeing his side score just two goals from three Premier League matches this year; two of those matches were defeats. The Gunners continue to slip down in the race for a top four finish and are now seven points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.
Arsenal made a formal approach for Villa by sending a delegation to the Camp Nou two weeks ago, to hold negotiations with the player and the Catalans, Goal.com reports. However, Barcelona informed them the Spaniard was not available either on loan or on a permanent transfer in January.
Villa, who missed much of last season after breaking his leg, has fallen down the pecking at the club and has managed just 11 starts this season. But with the Champions League and La Liga titles still within their grasp, Vilanova wanted to keep the 31-year-old international in his ranks.
"David is not going to leave. We are very happy with him. We know how important he is, like last year when we missed him a lot in the second half of the season. I'm convinced he will help us a lot over the remainder of the season," the manager said last week.
It will be interesting to see if Barcelona will be able to hold on to him now, with the player himself demanding a move away from the club.