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Barca after new striker

BARCELONA, Spain, July 19 – The coach of Spanish and European champions Barcelona, Pep Guardiola, says his pre-season priority is to add a new striker, with Udinese’s Chilean star Alexis Sanchez firmly in his sights.

But he has not abandoned hope of also snatching midfielder Cesc Fabregas from Arsenal despite the determination by Gunners’ boss Arsene Wenger to hold on to his captain.

“The priority is a forward,” he said in his first pre-season news conference, in which he lauded Sanchez.

“Of the three or four possibles that we are looking at, the one that comes closest to the profile we are looking for is Alexis… but we understand that these top players cost money to sign.

“He is a very young player, can play in three attacking positions, with a lot of intensity, very vertical, and from what I’ve been told he’s a very good guy,” said Guardiola.

Sanchez has also been linked with English sides Manchester United and Manchester City, but said last month that he wanted “Barcelona or nothing”.

Barca’s sporting director, Andoni Zubizarreta, said the club “is in the final stage” of negotiations for Sanchez.

Spanish media said Barcelona would be ready to offer between 25 and 28 million euros for the 22-year-old, with a further 10 million depending on his performance.

Despite his focus on a new forward, Guardiola is not giving up the fight for Spain star Fabregas.

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“There is still time,” before the pre-season transfer window closes on August 31, “we will try to reach a deal” on the 24-year-old, said Guardiola.

He rejected suggestions that the move up to the first team of Thiago Alcantara might result in a conflict in midfield.

“We understand that the midfield is our strength, our core game, where everything is produced,” he said.

“We understand there is cash in the Barcelona bank for this signing, if it can be done.”

Wenger has vowed to do everything in his power to prevent the departure of Fabregas, who is known to want to return to the club he has supported since he was a child. He joined the Barca youth academy aged 10 before moving to Arsenal at 16.

Barcelona began their pre-season training on Monday with just their Argentinian and Brazilian players missing.

Argentines Lionel Messi and his team-mates Gabriel Milito and Javier Mascherano along with the club’s Brazilian players Daniel Alves and Adriano have been given extended leave to take part in the Copa America.

The club starts a pre-season tour of the United States with a friendly against Manchester United in Landover, Maryland on July 30.

The Spanish league kicks off on August 21, when Barcelona visit Malaga.

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