Fabregas' Barca arrival delayed
Transfer saga takes another twist as Guardiola pushes back midfield star's homecoming to prepare for Super Cup showdown with Real
Cesc Fabregas was forced into a dramatic U-turn yesterday as his protracted transfer back to boyhood club Barcelona spluttered to its conclusion.
Told yesterday morning that a £35m deal had finally been agreed, Fabregas was on his way to Heathrow with a view to catching a flight to Spain when he received a phone call from Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola asking him to turn around.
Guardiola remains delighted at Fabregas' imminent signing but was unhappy that on the eve of the team's first important match of the season -- tomorrow's Spanish Super Cup first-leg in Madrid -- the midfielder's movements were overshadowing the team's preparations.
Fabgregas had said goodbye to Arsenal team-mates, and texted friends and family in Barcelona. It was not long before Barcelona players Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol were tweeting 'welcome home' messages and Catalan media were briefed the player would be in the city yesterday afternoon for a medical before a possible presentation today.
His inclusion in tomorrow's Super Cup first-leg was also mooted but Guardiola, who has been silently simmering all summer over Barcelona's exhausting pre-season tour while the club had failed to land his No 1 midfield target, had had enough.
The call was made to Fabregas suggesting he delay his arrival in Spain until tomorrow.
It is thought Arsenal were also unhappy at what they saw as Barcelona claiming the deal was done, when some details were still to be agreed on.
He is now likely to be presented on Monday and be available for selection in what would be his home debut on Wednesday in the Super Cup second-leg at the Camp Nou, although his lack of match fitness would appear to make that unlikely. His arrival will give his new team-mates a much-needed lift.
They fell to several defeats in pre-season losing to both Manchester United and Mexican side Chivas. Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano and new signing Alexis Sanchez were only able to start training with their team-mates last Monday after playing in the Copa America and captain Puyol is still some way short of full fitness.
"We used to have pre-season, now we go on tour," said an exasperated Guardiola during the far from perfect summer in which on several occasions in US he had to abandon training sessions because of intense heat and humidity.
Madrid went to Asia and the US but lost fewer key players to the Copa America and closed their transfer business early, signing Nuri Sahin from Borussia Dortmund and Fabio Coentrao from Benfica with limited fuss.
Jose Mourinho's side are favourites tomorrow for the first trophy of the season -- but Barcelona's pre-season wobbles may help Fabregas establish himself in the side.
There is still some scepticism about exactly where he fits in but he clearly has the advantage of Guardiola being the person who demanded his signing.
Mascherano looks set to start the new season where he finished the last one -- as a central defender who can also play in midfield.
That would leave Fabregas as one of six midfielders contesting three starting berths.
Seydou Keita, Thiago Alcantara, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez will be his competitors, but Guardiola often uses Busquets as a central defender, Iniesta as a forward and is also keen not to rush Thiago in his first senior season.
The new signing will give Barcelona goals and final passes from an attacking midfield position but could also play the occasional game in the holding role, exactly where he played a decade ago in the club's youth team alongside Pique and Messi. (© Daily Telegraph, London)