Barcelona are reported to have given up in their pursuit of forward Nolito after Celta Vigo turned down the Catalan club's final offer. Luis Enrique had identified the 29-year-old as his primary target in the January transfer window, with the club hoping to sign him on a loan deal until the end of the season and making the transfer permanent in the summer.
However, the move appears to have fallen through after Celta refused to sanction a loan deal midway through the season and insisted on Barcelona paying Nolito's release clause of €18m (£13.7m).
The Catalan giants cannot afford to spend big money in January due to La Liga spending restrictions. Spanish daily Marca reported that Barca had offered players as makeweight instead of cash for Nolito, but were turned down by Celta. Nolito has five international caps for Spain and previously played under Enrique at Barcelona B and Celta Vigo.
Enrique confirmed that bringing in a forward in the January transfer window was a priority for the club on 12 January, with Nolito and Villarreal forward Denis Suarez the two closest-linked with a move to the Catalan capital. "If any reinforcements are to come then I believe that right now we need to reinforce the attack," Enrique was quoted as saying by the Daily Mirror.
"In order for reinforcements to arrive, we've got to negotiate and these are always difficult. "It's not easy for a team to let important players leave halfway through the season, in the winter window."
Arsenal have also been linked with a move for Nolito, who has scored eight goals in 15 league appearances for Celta this campaign. Catalan daily Sport reported that Barcelona's failure to land Nolito had reignited the Premier League side's interest in the player. The paper claimed Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was an admirer of the 29-year-old and could make an approach for the player before the January window closes.