BARCELONA, July 16 (Reuters) – Barcelona are still trying to lure Paris St Germain centre back Thiago Silva to the Nou Camp but will look elsewhere if they fail to snare the Brazil international, coach Tito Vilanova said on Tuesday.
Filling a gap in central defence alongside Spain’s Gerard Pique is the La Liga champions’ main priority before the transfer window closes at the end of next month and although PSG are reluctant to let Thiago leave, Barca president Sandro Rosell has made it clear money is not an issue.
The 28-year-old Brazil captain has a contract until 2017 and is valued at 40 million euros ($52.2 million), according to website transfermarkt.com, which tracks soccer deals.
“He is a player we have wanted to sign for several years,” Vilanova said, in his first news conference since the Barca players began returning from their holidays this week.
“There is still a chance and we would like him to join us,” added the 44-year-old, still looking frail after battling with throat cancer over the past couple of years.
“If he doesn’t come then someone else will, we will definitely sign a centre back.”
Vilanova was flanked by sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta, who acknowledged AS Roma’s teenage Brazilian defender Marquinhos was “an interesting player” who had “a promising future”.
The pair were speaking after Rosell told Catalan television overnight the price for Thiago “was not the problem” and said money was unimportant to PSG’s Qatari owners.
“What is happening is that they don’t want to sit down at the table and negotiate,” Rosell told 8TV. “They don’t have any need for money.”
Beginning his second season in charge after taking over from his close friend Pep Guardiola, Vilanova was asked about a number of other issues in a news conference lasting more than an hour, including reports English champions Manchester United were after Barca’s Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas.
“I am aware that he has had offers from other teams but I spoke to Cesc and he made it clear to me that he wanted to stay here and his desire was to triumph here,” Vilanova said.
“He also knows the competition there is for places at this club … but he assured me that he has always wanted to triumph here and he was not considering leaving for any other club for economic reasons or to get more minutes on the pitch so I am totally calm,” he added.
Vilanova was bombarded with questions about recent comments made by Guardiola, who recently took over at Bayern Munich after a year out from football.
In an angry outburst at a news conference at Bayern’s training camp in Italy, Guardiola accused the Barca board of directors of using Vilanova’s illness to damage him and said they had hounded him during his sabbatical in New York.
“I don’t think people are interested in these personal issues but I heard what Pep said and I must say that I was surprised and I do not think he was right,” Vilanova said.
“I don’t think anyone from the board has used my illness to attack him,” he added, before making an appeal for Barca unity.
“I urge people just to think about one thing and that is the Barcelona family.
“Anything else divides us and makes us weaker and my feeling is that we are weaker than a few days ago.”
Zubizarreta announced that the club had reached an agreement with midfielder Sergio Busquets, who turned 25 on Tuesday, to extend his contract by three years to 2018 with an option for one more year.
Barca play their opening friendly of their pre-season at Polish side Lechia Gdansk on July 20 before taking on European champions Bayern in Germany four days later. ($1 = 0.7664 euros) (Additional reporting by Elena Gyldenkerne in Barcelona, writing by Iain Rogers in Madrid, editing by Pritha Sarkar)