Manchester United have finally been forced to concede defeat in their ambitious pursuit of Cesc Fabregas after the midfielder announced that he will stay at Barcelona. The Premier League champions made two bids for the 26-year-old, both of which were rejected by Barcelona as they insisted that the player was not for sale. Fabregas had not commented on the situation, however, before making his future plans clear at a press conference on Thursday.
“My dream of being a success at Barca was huge and nobody can change that,” he said. “I never doubted for a moment. I have always stayed calm about this. There was never anything in my head other than the idea of staying here. I didn’t lie to anyone. I didn’t hide anything. My conscience is clear. I am very happy at FC Barcelona. I haven’t spoken to any other club in the last two years.”
“[Barca vice-president, Josep] Bartomeu, Zubi [sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta], Tito [former manager Vilanova], Tata [manager Gerardo Martino], they all told me I’d stay. There were never any doubts, either from club or myself. I have always felt wanted.”
The comments come as a major blow to new United manager David Moyes, who had made the former Arsenal captain a priority as he looks to complete a first major signing since taking over at Old Trafford. It also comes as something of a blow to the club’s image, having been so public about their pursuit of Fabregas.
Quickly looking to move on from the disappointment, United are in talks with Moyes’s former club Everton about signing Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines, reports The Guardian. Both the Belgium midfielder and England international left-back have repeatedly been linked with following Moyes to Old Trafford, with a bid of £12 million having been reported to have been made for Baines earlier in the summer.
According to the story, United are weighing up a £30 million offer to land both players. It is hard to imagine such a bid being successful, given the previously rejected offer for Baines and the fact that Fellaini had a release clause of £23.5 million, although that expired on July 31. Indeed, in a separate piece, The Guardian claims that Everton will reject any bid from United. An offer of closer to £40 million may well be required to test the Merseyside club’s resolve.
According to Talksport, Moyes also has an eye on Real Madrid central defender Raphael Varane. The France international has been regularly cited as a target for Manchester United and was close to a move to Old Trafford before joining the Spanish giants from Lens in 2011. His performances in the second half of last season, particularly against Barcelona, established the 20-year-old as one of the finest young defenders around and thus it seems hard to envisage Madrid allowing him to depart. Indeed, French publication L’Equipe reports that Varane is set to sign a two-year contract extension, featuring a pay hike, to keep him at the Bernabeu until 2019.