Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has admitted he will always have a “close bond” with transfer target Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The German did not shut down the links with the 33-year-old, with the Blues ready to sign the Gabon international if Barcelona allow him to leave this month.
Tuchel managed Aubameyang at Borussia Dortmund and admitted he still harbours strong regard for him.
“This is totally separate from anything that is happening now, but I enjoyed a lot working with Auba while I was at Dortmund,” said Tuchel.
“Some players stay your players because you were very, very close. And Auba is one of those players.
“There was always straight away this close bond. They always stay your players in a way.”
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta forced the issue that led to Aubameyang’s switch to Barcelona last season, after a string of disciplinary issues and a clear falling out.
n stressing his strong relationship with Aubameyang in Germany, Tuchel added: “I experienced no issues with him, but this has nothing to do with the situation in Arsenal, about which I will also not comment out of respect.
“In Dortmund there was never an issue.”
Meanwhile, Arteta has defended removing Aubameyang as Arsenal captain last season but hopes he gets a good reception from Gunners fans if he joins Chelsea.
“It’s a long time since that happened, I can’t go back when there’s another series,” Arteta said of the Aubameyang captaincy saga ahead of Saturday’s game against Leicester.
“I was clear and honest in my opinion. What has been done is to defend our club and be as clear, honest as we can.
“Auba is an exceptional player, he did so much for us and we have to be grateful for what he did for this club.
“I hope he does [get a good reception from Arsenal fans] because he deserves that. There are moments in your career, where the trajectory of the individual is different to the club.”
Tuchel refuses to comment on Fofana
Tuchel also did not comment on speculation over Leicester defender Wesley Fofana, with the Blues having had two bids rejected for the Frenchman.
Chelsea are still some distance away in their valuation of Fofana with their second bid for the 21-year-old worth around £60m, but Leicester are only interested in an offer close to the record fee paid for a defender – the £80m that Manchester United paid for Harry Maguire three years ago.
Sky Sports News reported earlier this week that Chelsea are preparing a bigger offer in the coming days which will be much closer to Leicester’s valuation.
Tuchel has made Fofana a transfer priority this summer, but Leicester do not want to sell him, and feel his value will only increase in the next few years.