Athletic Bilbao forward Inaki Williams has distanced himself from suggestions he could be a contender in Barcelona’s hunt for a new frontman, saying “Athletic is above everything for me.”
The Catalan giants have been granted permission to sign a new striker outside the transfer window following a season-ending injury to Ousmane Dembele.
Rules in Spain stipulate that reinforcements can be brought in outside of the designated transfer windows in the case of an emergency, and Barca have seen it confirmed that they tick the relevant boxes.
The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) dictates that players can only be acquired at this time if they are free agents or tied to another La Liga club.
Barca also have just a 15-day window in which to get a deal done.
A string of names have been linked with a move to Camp Nou as a result, including Real Sociedad’s Willian Jose, Alves forward Lucas Perez and Martin Braithwaite of Leganes.
Williams has also been put forward as a potential target. The forward has scored eight goals in 30 appearances in all competitions this season and was part of the Athletic side that knocked Barca out of the Copa del Rey earlier this month.
However, his latest comments suggest he is happy at San Mames at for now, despite his admiration for Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.
When asked what his response would be if Barcelona were to come calling, the 25-year-old told El Hormiguero: “Barca is Barca, they have Messi, the best player in the world, but Athletic is above everything for me.
“If he could play at Athletic, I would sign Messi.”
As well as Dembele, Barcelona are also without the services of Luis Suarez following knee surgery, though they hope the former Liverpool forward will be able to return before the end of the campaign.
That leaves six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi and France international Antoine Griezmann as the club’s only fit senior forwards, with just 17-year-old Ansu Fati left to serve as a back-up after the departures of Carles Perez and Abel Ruiz were sanctioned in January.