Bob Diamond, the bank’s chief executive, flew to Madrid last Tuesday to meet Spain’s prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
The Sunday Times understands that Diamond asked Zapatero whether the Spanish government would be willing to offer guarantees to Barclays if it volunteered to take over one of its struggling lenders.
Spain’s regional banks – known as cajas – account for about half the country’s banking system. according to The Sunday Times. Together they lent about €500bn (£430bn) to Spain’s property developers, fuelling a boom that went wrong.
In Spain, fears for the health of the cajas have also been a key factor weighing on its sovereign debt rating.
The Bank of Spain has overseen an extensive restructuring of the sector, including consolidating the number of cajas from 45 to 17.
It is understood that Barclays is not in active talks about any particular deal. However, sources close to the bank said the current crisis could give the bank an opportunity to grow to a meaningful scale in Spain.
Diamond had indicated his commitment to Spain at a recent strategy review and hinted at possible deals in the future.
Barclays said: “Bob regularly meets prime ministers, presidents, finance ministers, regulators and central bankers. The contents of those discussions are private.”