Despite already having won their group, Ernesto Valverde is not underestimating a Sporting side who still have everything to play for.

Gremio midfielder Arthur has confirmed he is in contact with Barcelona but denied there is already an agreement in place for him to move to the Camp Nou.

Barca have been following Arthur since January and directors Robert Fernandez and Andre Cury were photographed with the Brazilian, who was wearing the Catalan club’s shirt, over the weekend.

“On the Barcelona matter, they did speak with me,” the 21-year-old, who has a €50 million buyout clause, told Esporte Interativo. “We had a meeting, but I want to say that there’s nothing final. Nothing has been defined and I did not sign anything. I am a Gremio player.”

Barca sporting director Robert flew over to South America to watch Arthur play in the Copa Libertadores final against Argentine side Lanus last week.

After the first leg in Porto Alegre, which Gremio won 2-1, Diario Sport reported that he dined with the player’s representatives in the Brazilian city.

Robert was then in Buenos Aires to see Arthur named man of the match as Gremio sealed a 3-1 aggregate victory, winning their first Copa Libertadores since 1995.

Arthur has recently helped Gremio win the Copa Libertadores.

Just a day later, last Friday, Arthur was then pictured with Robert and Cury, Barca’s man in South America, but was keen to stress that nothing was discussed or signed.

“It was just the first contact for them to get to know my family and for me to get to know them,” he added. “We’re not going to rush. There’s nothing in place, but there was a conversation. If I sign a contract then yes, I am going to be a Barcelona player, but we haven’t started negotiating.”

Gremio vice-president Odorico Roman has said the club want to keep hold of Arthur but suggested they would evaluate any proposals they receive for the player.

Arthur has been compared to Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez by the Catalan media and while he has not yet received a full international cap for Brazil, he was called up by coach Tite in September.

After winning the Copa Libertadores last week, Gremio will take part in the Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates later this month, where they could meet Barca’s rivals Real Madrid.

However, Arthur will not be able to take part in the competition after being ruled out with an ankle injury sustained in the win against Lanus.

Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.


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