Cesc Fabregas nears Arsenal exit after telling Arsène Wenger he wants to join Barcelona
Cesc Fabregas’ seven-year reign at Arsenal will come to an end as early as this week after the Spaniard told Arsene Wenger that he wanted to rejoin Barcelona.
The speed of the transfer has been hastened by the immediacy of the World Cup and Fabregas is expected to leave for up to £35m (€41m) with Yaya Toure, the Barcelona defensive midfielder, a possible makeweight in the deal.
Spain play Saudi Arabia on May 29 in Innsbruck and though Fabregas is still recovering from injury he is expected to be fit for the start of the competition and the player will want to be camped up with the Spanish squad.
It is understood representatives for Fabregas have made contact with Barcelona and the fact that Arsenal refused to comment on the news yesterday adds further weight to the probability of Fabregas leaving, though Barcelona have yet to make an official approach for the talented midfielder.
Fabregas came up through Barcelona’s youth-team, regularly scoring 30 goals a season before Wenger persuaded him to join Arsenal, in 2003. But Fabregas, who was first taken to Nou Camp when he was nine months old and remains a Barcelona fan, met with Wenger yesterday to deliver his decision.
In February the largest radio station in Spain, Cadena SER, claimed that "there is a firm agreement between Barca and Cesc Fabregas even if it is only verbal".
In April, Fabregas is understood to have had his wages increased to €129,000 a week at Arsenal though he will be aware that Lionel Messi, with whom he played for Barca youth, is on €235,000 a week, a figure he could come close to.
At the end of the season, Fabregas indicated to Wenger that he was considering a move to join coach Pep Guardiola. Wenger urged Fabregas to remain and be part of his rebuilding programme at the Emirates Stadium. But when Fabregas asked for names of potential signings and received no cast-iron promises, he decided the time was right to leave.
Arsenal could dig in their heals if Barcelona fail to match their asking price, particularly as he is only halfway through an eight-year contract. But Wenger has a history of allowing players to leave when they voice a desire to depart.
Nicholas Anelka and Jose Antonio Reyes are two players who surprisingly left, but made a huge profit for Wenger and as a man determined to help service the club’s debt by selling on players, he will view the potential departure as good business.
Fabregas has consistently distanced himself from continued speculation of a move but Rafael Yuste, the Barcelona vice-president increased the likelihood of a massive move when he spoke of the Catalan club’s desire to sign new players. They are close to acquiring Valencia’s David Villa and now see Fabregas as another part of the jigsaw.
"Negotiations are progressing well especially in the case of Villa," said Yuste. "The situation with Cesc is different because even if you have the will of the player it is very important to talk to his club and, if you can, find an agreement. But what makes it easier is that both players want to come to Barca."
Yesterday the Barcelona web site carried quotes from club president Joan Laporta, who said of Fabregas’s recent claims to join Barcelona: "It is remarkable that a player should commit himself in this way.
“If the club's technical staff believe we need to make the extra effort and sign him, we’ll speak to Arsenal."
Last week Fabregas, 23, who has sparked interest from other clubs including Real Madrid and Juventus, said he would only leave Arsenal for Barcelona.
"I have never hidden the fact that playing for Barcelona is a dream that I would like to fulfil and if I must leave Arsenal it would only be to play at Barca.”
Another reason for a speedy conclusion is the fact that Barcelona have a presidential election on June 13 and Laporta wants to end his tenure by signing him.
Both both candidates for the club’s presidency, Alfons Godall and Francesc Mane, have made the recapture of Fabregas a key part of their election campaign.
Toure would add weight to Arsenal’s midfielder but there are other candidates including another Spaniard, Everton’s Mikel Arteta. The Goodison Park club are believed to be determined to resist any attempts by Arsenal to lure Arteta to the Emirates.
Arteta has two years of his contract remaining and rather than lose him, Everton are keen to extend his contract once he returns from his holidays. He would carry an asking price of between €14 and €17m.
Arsenal, meanwhile, are moving closer to signing Bordeaux striker Marouane Chamakh in a five-year deal worth €59,000-a-week.