Barca's pursuit of Fabregas opens with rejection
Barcelona have launched their first substantive move of the summer for Cesc Fabregas by directly contacting Arsenal with a bid of £26m.
Arsenal immediately turned down the offer, which was tabled informally this week, but are now braced for another testing summer that is likely to be dominated by their captain's future.
The opening offer for Fabregas last summer was £31m and was also flatly rejected, with Arsenal somewhat bemused that Barcelona now seem to be placing an even lower valuation on their former trainee.
However, further bids and a repeat of last year's very public pursuit of Fabregas can now be expected. Arsenal have privately placed a valuation on Fabregas at beyond £44m, leaving a gap of around £18m in their respective positions.
Barcelona president Sandro Rosell surprised Arsenal last week by publicly stating that he would not offer more than £35.5m and has said that Fabregas' value is decreasing as his contract runs down.
Yet Fabregas is contracted to Arsenal until 2015, meaning that the club do not have to worry unduly about him running down his current deal for at least another two years.
What they do have to weigh up, however, is the immeasurable impact on the dressing-room of a captain who, in his heart of hearts, would probably like to be at Barcelona. The injury record of Fabregas is another consideration.
He suffered a series of hamstring injuries last season and, while that may be remedied by his first proper summer break since 2007, his value would clearly diminish if he endured similar problems next season.
Relations between Barcelona and Arsenal have also been strained over the past year. Barcelona's two offers for Fabregas last summer were accompanied by numerous public statements about the Arsenal captain from players and club directors, something that caused considerable irritation to Arsenal.
Barcelona were then angered earlier this year when Arsenal successfully persuaded Jon Toral, a 16-year-old midfielder, to join them. Arsenal have previously recruited Fran Merida and Ignasi Miquel from the Barcelona academy.
The whole issue is particularly sore for Barcelona given that Arsenal eventually paid only £700,000 in compensation for Fabregas and are now in a position to have rejected bids in excess of £30m.
Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, has been back at the club's London Colney training base this week and is understood to be relaxed about the Fabregas situation. Arsenal are well aware of Fabregas' stated desire to rejoin Barcelona, but believe that the 24-year-old appreciates that he can only leave if an acceptable offer emerges. If that does not happen, as was the case last summer, they believe that he will continue to be committed to Arsenal.
Fabregas is currently in Jakarta and, while he still regards Barcelona as his dream destination, has seemed more cautious in his recent public pronouncements. In an interview earlier this week, he simply said that Pep Guardiola, the Barcelona manager, had been his "idol" as a player.
Rosell pointedly praised Fabregas this week for having done everything he could to join Barcelona and said that he "really wants to come".
Guardiola has a budget of £40m for new players, although that has been swelled by £9m from the sale of Bojan Krkic to Roma.
"This year we won't offer the same as last year because a year has gone by and Cesc today is not worth 40 million (euros)," said Rosell. "I am concerned about the club's economic sustainability -- we have to balance the books."
For this reason, there remains the possibility of another club, such as Manchester City, Inter Milan, Chelsea or Real Madrid, making a far higher bid for Fabregas. Arsenal have already turned down bids this summer for Nicklas Bendtner and Gael Clichy, from Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool, respectively. Wenger has his own summer targets, which include Gervinho, Ricardo Alvarez, Christopher Samba, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gary Cahill. (© Daily Telegraph, London)