Barcelona are confident of tying midfield Andres Iniesta to a new contract at the club, despite interest from Manchester United.
The Red Devils have been strongly linked with a move for the player, Sky Sports claim, as his current deal moves towards a conclusion in 2015.
However, the Catalan giants now appear to be a step closer to retaining the services of the Spanish international star long-term, with sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta claiming a deal could be struck before the festive period.
"We are close to agreeing a new contract with Iniesta," he told Radio Catalunya.
"I think it could happen before Christmas."
The comments come just days after Spanish football expert Guillem Balague dismissed the chances of the 29-year-old moving to Old Trafford in the transfer window.
"I've seen that the rumour of Andres Iniesta moving to Manchester United has attracted a lot of interest," Balague told the same website.
"Barcelona are saying everything with his contract will be sorted before Christmas, but I'm not sure how they can be sure of the timing. But before you get all excited, I have to tell you that Iniesta is not listening to offers from anybody.
"His agents are aware of interest not only from Manchester United but from every other big club in Europe.”
The news will be a blow to David Moyes, who suffered a number of high-profile transfer disappointments in the summer after replacing Sir Alex Ferguson at the Red Devils helm.
And, with Iniesta set to remain in La Liga, the Manchester United chief will now need to take his midfield transfer search elsewhere.
For Barcelona, the news will be a huge boost to manager Gerardo Martino, as he looks to continue the Catalan giants’ tradition of bringing major trophies to the Nou Camp.
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