Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde dodged questions about the club’s reported interest in Gremio midfielder Arthur, claiming he thought he was being asked about an actor.
Arthur has been linked with Barca for several months after establishing himself as one of South America’s most promising young players during Gremio’s successful Copa Libertadores campaign last year.
Reports of Barca’s interest initially began circulating in December when Arthur was photographed wearing the club’s jersey during a meeting with sporting director Robert Fernandez.
Although that moved angered the Brazilian club, negotiations have taken place since and reports have even suggested the two clubs are closing in on an agreement worth an estimated €40million.
Though, when asked about Arthur, Valverde tried to convince reporters of his ignorance.
He said: “Arthur? What’s his last name?
“I thought he was an actor! He’s at another team. I’ve seen him, like a lot of others.”
News rocked Spain on Thursday when it was confirmed a police officer died of a cardiac arrest during violent clashes between Athletic Bilbao and Spartak Moscow at the former’s San Mames stadium before a Europa League meeting.
Although the officer’s death was not directly caused by physical trauma, it was pointed out by official statements that a flare thrown from a group of Russian supporters had landed near him just a few seconds before.
Valverde, who coached Athletic before Barca, expressed his sadness at the situation and rued the fact some people use football as a “shortcut” to give other things “visibility”.
“We’re all affected,” Valverde said. “Especially in my case, as it happened in Bilbao.
“Football is there to be enjoyed, but there are people who use football as a shortcut to other things. It’s not a footballing problem, it’s just that that’s where it gets visibility.”