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Fabregas in limbo as Barca drag heels

Cesc Fabregas will not be on Arsenal's flight to Germany today for their key pre-season training camp, as the club captain remains in limbo waiting to be told whether Barcelona have been successful in their efforts to sign him.

The hamstring injury that prevented him from travelling to the Far East on the club's more commercially oriented tour earlier this month continues to be a problem for Fabregas. Quite apart from whether Barca meet Arsenal's valuation of the player, it means that he will miss the bulk of the pre-season preparations in a summer that has been full of frustration for him.

The chances are that Fabregas will still be an Arsenal player when his team-mates return to play next weekend's double-header against Boca Juniors and New York Red Bulls. Barcelona are dragging their feet over a third bid, this time of £35m, and Arsenal have told them they will not do business after the end of the month.

Whether they hold true to that promise, or whether it is another of the negotiating positions adopted in this interminable saga between the two clubs, remains to be seen.

But what is not in doubt is that Fabregas, having reluctantly agreed to give Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger one more season last summer, is determined to get his move back to his boyhood club.

There is despair in the Fabregas camp that Arsenal are proving so stubborn in their £40m valuation and that Barca are not prepared to push their offer closer.

The player's wage demands of around £5.3m net a year are by no means modest and, for a club labouring under a £400m debt, the investment in Fabregas would be substantial.

In the past, Arsenal have managed to sell key players -- notably Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry -- with goodwill on both sides. But, with Barcelona and Arsenal still a long way apart and Fabregas set on the move, it may come to the point when the player feels he has no option but to force the issue.

For Wenger the problem is to portray his club as ambitious and forward-thinking to potential signings while having to acknowledge that, in Fabregas and Samir Nasri, he has two key players who want to leave.

Arsenal's moves for Phil Jagielka, for a long time their first choice to partner Thomas Vermaelen, culminated yesterday in a £10m offer, which is nowhere near Everton's £20m valuation.

In the past few days, 19-year-old Costa Rica international Joel Campbell has slipped through Arsenal's fingers when he changed his mind about a move at the last minute. Southampton's 17-year-old prodigy Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was a serious target in January but Arsenal's £6m offer -- including add-ons -- is not close to the £12m Southampton want.

The £11m spent on Gervinho, from Lille, has been Arsenal's only major signing of the summer.

With £110m in cash reserves, £40m of which have been made available for transfers, and a potential further £40m from Fabregas, there is money for Wenger to spend.

He is fond of saying that players who justify such outlay are few and far between -- but the imperative to find them has rarely been greater. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent