Sport Soccer

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Fabregas may make 'Clasico' debut after Barca deal agreed

Mark Walsh

Cesc Fabregas may make his Barcelona debut in a 'Clasico' against Real Madrid on Wednesday night after Arsenal confirmed they had agreed terms for the sale of their captain to the Catalans.

While the Gunners were always determined to keep Fabregas, who joined them from the Spanish club in 2003 as a teenager, it became clear this summer the player was no longer committed to the Arsenal cause.

The European champions had seen a £27m offer rebuffed earlier in the summer as Arsenal remained steadfast in their demands over a £40m fee for their midfielder.

However, with Barcelona not willing to significantly up their cash bid, and Gunners manager Arsene Wenger admitting the player was unsettled, Arsenal reluctantly have allowed a cut-price deal to go through.

The transfer package is reported to include a down payment of €30m (£27m), with an additional €6m (£5.2m) in performance-based add-ons at a later stage.

There are also suggestions Fabregas is prepared to waive the £4m compensation he would be entitled to for the remainder of his long-term Arsenal contract, as technically the player never asked for a transfer.

In a statement on Arsenal's official website, Wenger last night expressed his disappointment at Fabregas' departure.

"We have been clear that we didn't want Cesc to leave and that remains the case," he said. "However, we understand Cesc's desire to move to his hometown club and have now accepted an offer from Barcelona. We thank Cesc for his contribution at Arsenal and wish him future success."

The 24-year-old playmaker could make his debut on Wednesday at the Camp Nou as the Spanish champions welcome Real Madrid for the return leg of their Spanish Super Cup series, after a 2-2 draw in last night's first leg.

"Monday is the presentation and after that we see," said Guardiola, who didn't believe relations between the clubs had soured because of the protracted and sometimes awkward negotiations for Fabregas.

"Last year we made an offer and they said no. All the time this situation is happening, it was tough negotiations," Guardiola said from the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Fabregas is due to have a medical at Barcelona Hospital this morning (7.0) before undergoing a further test at Barcelona's medical centre. If everything goes to plan he will sign a contract just before midday and have a press conference in the early afternoon.

Fabregas had, officially at least, been struggling for match fitness because of a hamstring injury which saw him miss the club's Asia Tour and other pre-season games.

Wenger consciously omitted his captain from the Emirates Cup and the World Cup winner was not selected for Saturday's opening Premier League fixture at Newcastle, which ended goalless and saw summer signing Gervinho sent off.

Fabregas joined Arsenal for nothing from Barcelona in 2003, and has made more than 300 appearances, scoring 57 goals.

He became Arsenal's youngest first-team player in the following month when he made his debut against Rotherham United in the League Cup aged 16 years and 177 days.

He also became Arsenal's youngest goalscorer when he netted against Wolves in a 5-1 win that December. However, despite winning both the European Championships and World Cup with Spain, club success has not followed for the midfielder, who missed the Gunners' shock Carling Cup final defeat against Birmingham at Wembley through injury.

Fabregas is now set to agree personal terms and undergo a medical today before sealing his return to the Nou Camp.

Wenger, meanwhile, will face the media today ahead of Arsenal's crunch Champions League play-off against Udinese tomorrow -- a match which, were Fabregas to have played, would have made him ineligible for any other club later in the competition.

The Gunners boss will now be under more pressure to spend the proceeds of Fabregas sale -- and indeed the Emirates Stadium coffers could yet be swelled further should contract rebel Samir Nasri also move on before the transfer window closes, with Manchester City said to be ready to bid £22m for the France midfielder.

Wenger, though, has already ruled out a swoop for Juan Mata from Valencia, but could yet look to push through a £15m deal for Shakhtar Donetsk's Brazilian midfielder Jadson.

Nasri will not be available for the first leg of the Udinese tie because of UEFA disciplinary sanctions, which also mean Wenger must serve a touch-line ban following the fall-out from their Champions League exit in Barcelona last season.

Striker Robin van Persie, likely to be the new permanent Arsenal captain, will also be suspended after his red card at the Nou Camp.

Midfielder Alex Song, meanwhile, could yet find himself on a charge from the Football Association for appearing to stamp on Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton, an incident which was missed by referee Peter Walton during Saturday's ill-tempered game at St James' Park.

Irish Independent

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