Arsenal play hard to get with €50m Fabregas tag
ARSENAL will demand at least €50m for star man Cesc Fabregas, with Arsene Wenger and the club's board of directors now braced for a protracted summer of negotiations.
Fabregas has made it known that he wants to leave Arsenal for Barcelona, but his hopes of a swift resolution to the situation are slim, particularly as there remains a huge gulf between the respective valuations.
Barcelona are hoping to pay about €35m for the 23-year-old, but that figure has been dismissed out of hand by senior Arsenal sources, who regard Fabregas among the elite bracket of young players in world football.
They are also acutely aware of the precedent that was set last summer by Real Madrid when Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka both attracted fees in excess of €80m.
Although Fabregas has now stated a desire to rejoin the club where he spent six years as a trainee, the Arsenal board believe they are in a strong position and still hope to send a powerful message not only to Barcelona, but also to Wenger and the rest of their playing squad.
The timing is particularly delicate as Wenger has only just opened negotiations on his own contract, with the Arsenal board well aware that the loss of Fabregas would represent an enormous blow to the Frenchman's entire project.
Wenger has previously tended to allow any unhappy player to leave but, according to club sources, the manager and the directors do believe that it is still feasible to keep Fabregas for at least another year.
There is also a feeling that Fabregas may have over-played his hand by allowing his preference to be known so early in the summer.
As of last night, Barcelona had still made no approach to Arsenal and, having spent €40m yesterday on Valencia's David Villa, it is doubtful whether they would immediately go beyond that figure for Fabregas.
While the eventual return of Fabregas to Spain seems inevitable, Arsenal are also reluctant to work to the time-scale set by Barcelona, who would clearly like a deal concluded before the World Cup and certainly before Juan Laporta steps down as president on June 13.
Barcelona stressed yesterday that they still hoped to bring Fabregas back to the club as quickly as possible, but there was also the admission that they may have to be patient.
"It's great news that he wants to come here, and I think that one day Cesc will have to come to Barca, but what matters is Arsenal and what their decision is," said sporting director Txiki Begiristain.
"We have to respect Arsenal's wishes and the contract he has. At times the wishes of players do not come true because they are under contract.
"That he says that he wants to come to Barca is a sign that things are being done well here. I don't know when but I have the impression that he is a Barca (style) player and that he will enjoy it very much. I wish it was as soon as possible."
Barcelona had been willing to offer Yaya Toure as a makeweight in the deal, but the Ivorian has made it clear that he does not want to join Arsenal.
Wenger is also focused on other transfer targets, with Felipe Melo, Jack Rodwell and Mikel Arteta likely to figure more prominently on his list of potential replacements.
The club are close to confirming the free transfer of Marouane Chamakh, with Sol Campbell and William Gallas also having been offered new one-year contracts.
It is expected that only Campbell will stay for another season, meaning that central defence is the main priority this summer. "I would love the opportunity to continue at Arsenal, although a one-year contract has been offered, these things take some time to thrash out," Campbell said. "I imagine Arsene has quite a lot to deal with at the moment, particularly with Fabregas."
There is also interest in Campbell from Celtic. (© Daily Telegraph, London)