Cesc Fabregas looks set to leave Barcelona this season, but not to return to Arsenal. The future of the Spain midfielder has been the source of much speculation after another season at the Camp Nou where, despite playing more regularly, he struggled to assert his influence in the big games and was even singled out for abuse from his club’s own supporters.
Sky Sports first reported over the weekend that Fabregas was set to leave Barcelona, three years after returning to his boyhood club from Arsenal. The report claims that the 27-year-old is keen on a return to the Premier League, where he played for Arsenal for eight seasons. Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal have all been strongly linked with moves. But several sources have ruled City out of the running in recent days and it now seems that Arsenal are not an option either.
Respected Spanish journalist Guillem Balague, who was correct when stating that Fabregas wouldn’t go anywhere last summer despite many rumors to the contrary, has stated that Barcelona have told Fabregas to find a new team in order that they can fund a move for Atletico Madrid’s Koke. He also asserts that Arsenal have informed Fabregas that they have no interest in a transfer.
It was always thought that Arsenal would have a major say in Fabregas’s next move, due to the presence of a buy-back clause inserted into the deal that took him to the Camp Nou. Yet there are plenty of reasons why Arsene Wenger would not want to commit £30 million toward bringing him back. Arsenal now have Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere vying for the role as the more attack-minded of the two central midfielders, which Fabregas occupied during his time at the club. While Fabregas could also play further forward, Wenger now has record-signing playmaker Mesut Ozil in the No.10 role. Although still a player who can offer much to almost any team in the world, a deal to bring Fabregas back to the Emirates would be based more on emotion than reason.
Where Arsenal do need to spend serious money this summer is in attack. In contrast to their midfield depth, Olivier Giroud was the Gunners’ only reliable leader of the line last season. Surprisingly, one of the strikers being linked to Arsenal is former Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli.
The Telegraph has claimed that the Italy international is likely to leave Milan this summer, after just 18 months at the club, with Wenger said to be both a big fan of the 23-year-old and to have added him to his wanted list. A player of undoubted talent, Balotelli’s career has been blighted by controversy both on and off the pitch.
He would certainly be more costly than another reported Arsenal target, Carlos Vela. Following the Mexican forward’s departure from the Emirates in 2012, Arsenal have a clause in his contract allowing them to buy him back from Real Sociedad, reportedly for as little as £3 million. Vela has previously said that his future remains in doubt, with the possibility also existing that Arsenal could buy him back only to immediately sell him on. Speaking late last week, Vela reiterated previous comments suggesting that he wouldn’t be overly enthused about returning to Arsenal.
"The majority of Sociedad's players are from the youth system and this has turned the dressing room into something more familiar," he told beIN SPORTS. "I never felt comfortable in London and I never enjoyed it, however, when I got to San Sebastian, I found a place where I was very happy, where I'm enjoying myself every day.
“The English game is very straightforward. Here, the difference is that there are more touches of the ball and that benefits me.”
Arsenal have also continued to be linked with a move for Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema. Despite 24 goals last season when he overcame his detractors, there is still widespread belief that Madrid are keen to sign a big-name striker (Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez are believed to be the main targets) and will use the proceeds from the sale of Benzema to fund it.
Wenger is known to be an admirer of Benzema and his highly technical ability would see him fit seamlessly into to Arsenal’s game plan. However, as last summer when he was also linked with a move away, Benzema continues to state his desire to stay at the Bernabeu.
“I feel at home in Madrid. I am really at ease,” he told L’Equipe, according to Sky Sports. “Playing at Real Madrid is a joy and fills me with pride because it is the greatest club in the world and also because I have come through some difficult moments in my five years here.”