ARSENAL have been dealt a major blow in their pursuit of Pau Torres, according to reports.
The centre-back, 23, is high on Mikel Arteta’s summer wish list as he looks to bolster his back line.
The Gunners had spoken to their former star Santi Cazorla to get the inside track on the defender, who revealed he is taking English lessons.
But according to Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague, the player wants to stay at Villarreal.
And on top of that, the Yellow Submarines are desperate to keep him.
Speaking on a YouTube Q&A, Balague said: “Pau Torres? Not on the move.
“Villarreal wants to keep him. He wants to stay and he wants to develop at Villarreal.”
Torres has a £43million release clause with his contract – signed in October – running until 2024.
The Spaniard enjoyed a successful loan at Malaga in Segunda Division last season and has established himself as a first-team regular for the first time at Villarreal this season.
He is incredibly popular in his hometown, helped by the fact that he became the first academy graduate to play for the Spanish national team.
Torres replaced Sergio Ramos to come on for his debut in November 2019 – and he scored just a minute later as Spain thumped Malta 7-0.
And the young defender was also named in Villarreal’s all-time XI – as voted for by fans – in January, in a side that also included Cazorla, Diego Forlan and Juan Riquelme.
Plenty of question marks remain over David Luiz, Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis and Rob Holding while Calum Chambers is still in store for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Arteta did sign Pablo Mari on loan in January and is expected to make his deal permanent in the summer while Willian Saliba will return from his season at former club Saint-Etienne.
The Torres blow means Arsenal are likely going to have to go after their other defensive targets instead.
Athletic Bilbao defender Unai Nunez is wanted by a host of clubs this summer with Manchester City, West Ham, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich all keen.
But it is Arsenal who could be at the front of the queue for the 23-year-old central defender.
He would cost £26m from the Basque side – a relative bargain for a young and talented defender who would be hopeful of becoming a mainstay in the Gunners’ back line.
RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano is their No1 priority and would be available for £55m.
But the Gunners face plenty of competition for the Frenchman, 21.
The same goes for Samuel Umtiti and Gabriel Magalhaes.
Napoli and Manchester United have both been linked with Barcelona ace Umtiti – who is happy and settled in Spain – while Chelsea are leading the race for Lille star Magalhaes.