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Cesc's dad hints at Gunners exit

JUST as Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia was emphasising the importance of Cesc Fabregas to the club and their supporters, the Spain midfield player's father was telling a Catalan television station that his son could listen to offers from rival clubs.

"For the supporters, Cesc is a symbol of the club," Spanish-born Almunia said after Arsenal's 1-0 victory over Liverpool in the Premier League on Wednesday.

"For the people, he is the best. I have no doubts that he loves the club and Arsenal in general.

"If he has to go, he will be very sad. That is if he has to leave -- I don't know anything. I think nobody has any doubt that Cesc gives everything to the game.

"He makes tackles and fights, and this is the only thing that the people can expect from him."

However, Francesc Fabregas revived the story that refuses to go away -- however much the Emirates Stadium supporters wish that it would -- when he told Barcelona's Radio Kanal that the Arsenal captain could be willing to listen to offers from other clubs at the end of the season.

He said that there would be no movement or negotiations before then, but his remarks are sure to give encouragement to Barcelona -- his son's boyhood club, who are known to covet his return -- and Real Madrid.

The club's failure to compete for the Premier League title is cited as one reason why Fabregas may seek trophies elsewhere, and Almunia did not attempt to deflect criticism of recent defeats at home to Manchester United and away to league leaders Chelsea.

"Arsenal is a big club and we deserve to be criticised because we have been playing for many years without fighting for the title," he said. "The team is growing up and everybody accepts it because we cannot say anything when we don't play well.

Improve

"Against United we were not on our game at any time. Against Chelsea we played well, I thought, but as soon as we switched off a bit, we lost. There are small points we need to improve, not technically or tactically but personally -- little things that we have to show more."

Meanwhile, Steven Gerrard has criticised match referee Howard Webb for failing to award Liverpool a penalty when Fabregas handled on the edge of the area from what was virtually the last kick of the game.

"It was a penalty," the Liverpool captain said. "In the first half the ref told the Liverpool wall, 'Anyone raises their arms above their head, I am going to give a penalty'."

The England player added: "For some crazy reason he has not given the decision. He has said to me that he has not seen it, but it is unbelievable if a ref can't see someone raise their hands in the wall.

"Especially Howard Webb, who I would say is one of the best refs in the league."


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