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Barcelona Interested in Arsenal’s Gael Clichy

Barcelona are plotting a raid on Arsenal this summer but their top target is Gael Clichy rather than Cesc Fabregas.

Clichy impressed Nou Camp boss Pep Guardiola with two excellent performances against Barca in the Champions League quarter-final.

Guardiola has identified the need for a left back as a greater priority than a central midfielder like Fabregas, although the issue is clouded by the club’s presidential elections in the summer.

Meetings were held between representatives of the two clubs when they clashed in the Champions League and Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood claimed the Catalans had made assurances that they would not make a bid for Fabregas this summer.

Barcelona distanced themselves from Hill-Wood’s comments yesterday, when technical secretary Txiki Begiristain revealed: ‘We never said we will not try to sign Cesc Fabregas. We will see what happens.’

Instead, Barca insisted they had only given Arsenal assurances that if they do decide they want to buy their captain they will come directly to the club and not try to unsettle him via agents.

Guardiola would prefer to focus the summer recruitment campaign on a high-calibre replacement for Thierry Henry, who looks set to leave, probably for the USA, and bolster his squad in other areas, including left back.

The Barca boss sees Clichy as a left-sided version of Dani Alves, a full back capable of attacking fluently but with the engine to carry out his defensive duties.

For Clichy, 24, it could provide the boost which propels him into the France team, where he has struggled to get past Manchester United’s Patrice Evra and Barca’s Eric Abidal.

He has two years left on his Arsenal contract but Clichy has not been at his most consistent this season. His place may even have come under pressure from Kieran Gibbs had the England Under 21 defender not broken his foot in November.

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