Liverpool's pursuit of Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez has been dealt a huge blow with the Catalan club's president saying the Chilean is not for sale.
Josep Maria Bartomeu has made it clear that the 25-year-old will be staying at the Camp Nou, per Spanish sports newspaper Marca:
"He's not on the market. He has an active contract," said the Barca president. "[He] is in our plans for next season. We've always needed him because he's very highly valued as a player at this club."
Looking to add to their squad ahead of their return to the Champions League next season, the Reds had been strongly linked with the winger.
Paul Hetherington in the Daily Star reported that Liverpool were looking to sign the Chilean for £18 million as he was angling for a move away from Barcelona.
While the Catalans did not pick up any major trophies in what was a relatively underwhelming season, Sanchez's 19 La Liga goals in 34 appearances were still a mighty impressive return, per Squawka.
However, his absence from Barca's promotional photograph for their new home kit had many speculating that the former Udinese man was on his way out, including Goal.com's Max Bentley:
However, it seems these rumours were unfounded. Liverpool will now need to look elsewhere as they search to add strength and depth to their exciting young squad.
Sanchez's pace and skill would have been ideally suited to Brendan Rodgers' rapid counter-attacking style, which saw the Reds score 101 Premier League goals in their runners-up campaign, per BBC Sport.
Southampton's Adam Lallana has been a long-term target for the Reds, but recent reports suggest they may face competition from newly appointed Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, per The Guardian:
Rodgers may also attempt to finally bring in Dnipro winger Yevhen Konoplyanka, who he missed out on in January despite all but finalising a deal, per ESPN FC:
Despite other potentially fine targets, Sanchez represented the highest-profile player to be pursued by Liverpool so far, and to miss out on the Chile international is a big blow.
However, while the Reds have been scuppered in this instance, their presence in the Champions League next season should allow them to attract real quality over the summer.
They will need to sign sensibly if they are to properly compete in both the Premier League and in Europe in the 2014-15 campaign, and the pursuit of Sanchez indicates Rodgers is targeting the right calibre of player.