ARSENAL have been dealt a huge blow after emerged their top target to replace Mesut Ozil wants to sign for Barcelona.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger had highlighted Leon Goretzka as the player he wanted to sign once Ozil quits the Emirates.
Arsenal had even looked at the possibility of trying to sign the German sensation when the January transfer window opens.
But according to reports in Germany, the Premier League club can forget capturing the Schalke star because he only has his sights set on the Nou Camp.
Goretzka is regarded as one of the best young players in Germany and has been tracked by a host of big clubs across Europe.
The 22-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season and Schalke fear he wants to leave the club despite their offer of a new deal.
Arsenal were hoping to capitalise by enticing the midfielder to North London – even by trying to sign him for a cut price fee in January.
But SportBild say Goretzka has already made it clear where his next destination will be – Barcelona.
They claim the player’s representatives have already met with Barca officials to discuss a possible move to La Liga.
And talks appear to have gone so well that they have discussed a January move to Spain so Schalke could at least collect some decent money for their player.
Because he is under 24, the Bundesliga club would be due a compensation payment if he did run down his contract and leave at the end of the season.
But that would be only a fraction of the kind of money Goretzka should be worth, and they could even get £15million if they decided to sell mid-season.
Arsenal had hoped they could move early to head off competition from their rivals in the race for the midfielder.
But the news from Germany suggests they will have to look elsewhere in the hunt for a replacement for Ozil.
The enigmatic play-maker looks likely to leave Arsenal at the end of his season on a free transfer, after rejecting the club’s attempts to agree a new deal so far.