Spain international striker David Villa, 31, was linked with Arsenal heavily during the January transfer window. It was a move never materialized and Villa has remained with Barcelona.
The rumors, however, have continued in stops and starts.
Late last month, the Daily Mirror's John Cross reported that Villa was looking to force a move away from Barcelona in search of more playing time. But, as Cross wrote, Arsenal were no longer interested.
More recently, the Spanish publication AS has reported that Arsenal and Barcelona have a €15 million pre-contract agreement in place for Villa's transfer to Arsenal this summer (via Caught Offside).
The rumors will be sorted out in time, but for now, we're weighing the pros and cons of Arsenal potentially signing Villa.
David Villa is an experienced international with 88 caps for Spain, the reigning European and World Cup champions, and he is a proven goal at both the club and international levels.
In his first full season as a professional (2001-02 with Sporting Gijon), Villa scored 18 league goals (per Sid Lowe at The Guardian), and he followed up with 20 the next campaign. The goalscoring continued at Real Zaragoza and Valencia before Barcelona came calling in 2010.
Villa's playing time at Barca has been limited by a long injury layoff (more on that momentarily), but he scored 23 goals in all competitions his first season in Catalonia. This season, he has netted 15 goals in all competitions.
Villa suffered a broken leg during a Club World Cup match while playing for Barcelona against Al Sadd in December 2011. The injury was so serious that Villa reportedly risked losing his leg. He missed the rest of the 2011-12 season and returned eight months later in August 2012.
Since his return, Villa has seen limited playing time in Barcelona's attack. Villa appears to have recovered, but it's still unclear what long-term implications the injury will have. So far this season, Villa has completed the full 90 minutes of game action just seven times (per WhoScored?).
Villa isn't just a goal scorer. He can aid the offense in numerous ways, as evidenced by his contribution to Barcelona's Lionel Messi-focused attack.
In Barca's memorable 4-0 rout of AC Milan in this season's UEFA Champions League, Villa played as a true No. 9 and directed defenders' attention away from Messi, who showed his customary lethal finishing.
As B/R's Sam Tighe wrote, it was Villa's natural position, one he has played for Barcelona in the past, and it helped make Barca a legitimate threat in the competition. Instead of floundering against a determined defense, Barcelona's Plan B made them tough to beat.
Arsenal sometimes struggle to break down determined defenses. A player of Villa's versatility would surely prove valuable.
At 31, Villa is past the age of a normal Arsene Wenger signing. Arguably, he is also past his prime.
Villa's statistics over the past two seasons can be considered misleading because of his injury, but his production has certainly declined.
The high point came in 2008-09, when Villa scored 28 league goals for Valencia. He bagged 21 the following season and then 18 in 2010-11, his first with Barcelona. Before suffering the season-ending injury in December 2011, he had scored five league goals in 15 matches, or just under half a season.
In 24 league matches this season, his total output is nine goals. But, as the next slide suggests, that number isn't the full story.
Villa has scored just nine league goals this season, but according to WhoScored?, he has done so with only 36 shots (1.5 per game for 24 games). That works out to one goal every four shots.
(It is fair to point out that Villa missed a number of chances in Sunday's 4-2 win over Real Betis, though he did eventually score.)
In addition to his nine goals, Villa has supplied four assists, meaning he has been involved in 13 goals in 24 matches (14 as a starter). Considering the extent to which Barcelona rely on Lionel Messi's scoring, that's not a bad return for a player returning from a long-term injury.
Villa also completes 83.6 percent of his passes in Barcelona's possession-based team strategy. Arsenal play a similar style, if less sophisticated, and Villa would likely fit in well.
Villa is a natural finisher with a proven goalscoring record. But he's also 31 with a recent history of serious injury, and it's not certain that he's even available.
If he is available, though, and Arsenal could sign him for a reasonable price, he would likely prove a valuable addition to Arsene Wenger's squad.
That's not to say, however, that Villa would solve all of Arsenal's problems. He is not a target man, and his best days are probably in the past. But he would fit well with Wenger's possession-based ideals and bring some more quality to the attack.