Arsenal starlet Charlie Patino is a transfer target for Barcelona, according to new reports.
Patino, who is currently on loan at Championship side Blackpool, has been regarded as one of the top talents to come through the Gunners academy in recent years.
And his current boss, Michael Appleton, gave a glowing review of the youngster's performance in Blackpool's 0-0 draw against Sunderland against October 4: "I thought he was outstanding tonight, especially that second half.
"He controlled the game. It was his game, he played at his tempo. When he wanted to speed it up, he sped it up. When he wanted to slow it down, he slowed it down. When he wanted to switch it up, he did it."
Patino has made 15 appearances for Blackpool in what is his first season of senior football, scoring two goals and providing two assists.
And there is now interest in the player from elsewhere.
Barcelona keen on Patino
Patino's father is Spanish, and he has both an English and Spanish passport. The same outlet claims that the Spain national team have evaluated whether to call up the 19-year-old in the past.
Arsenal, for their part, will be keen to keep hold of one of their top young talents, having lost Omari Hutchinson to Chelsea in the summer. Calciomercato, meanwhile, describe Patino as 'one of the most precious diamonds' in English football, quoting the words of Gunners academy scout Brian Stapleton.
And Mikel Arteta wants the club to tread carefully when it comes to Patino's development. Speaking in December 2021, after the midfielder had a goalscoring debut in the Carabao Cup against Sunderland, he said: [Too much hype around him] is what we have to avoid. He still has a lot of competition in front of him.
"He is really young. And he needs to go step by step."
The Gunners have a dilemma, however, because Patino's current deal expires this summer. However, The Athletic claimed in October that they have an unknown deadline by which to activate a two-year extension option that the club holds.
If this is not done by January, the 18-year-old could discuss a pre-contract agreement with foreign clubs.
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