Barcelona have provided mixed messages over Manchester United’s continued pursuit of Cesc Fabregas. David Moyes has so far sanctioned two bids for the Spain international as he looks to complete his first major signing since taking over from Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford.
Both offers were rejected by the Spanish champions as they continued to insist that the midfielder was not for sale. But manager Gerardo Martino appeared to give United a first glimmer of hope over the weekend.
“I would prefer him to stay with us and I dare say he will, but it's his decision,” he said. “He is one of the best players in the squad. I think he will stay. But there's a part that he has to decide.”
Those comments were then almost immediately contradicted by sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta claiming that United have given up on their pursuit of the former Arsenal captain.
"Manchester United are interested in the player, but it's also true that they understand our position of not wanting to sell," he explained. "They have renounced his signing. We aren't going to sell him."
ESPN reports that the Premier League champions remain confident that they can get their man as they prepare to make a third bid. Fabregas is believed to be keen to remain at the club that he was desperate to rejoin in 2011, but wants a more prominent role in the first team. Martino is not thought to have yet given the 26-year-old such assurances.
There has also been contradicting comments regarding another of Manchester United’s summer targets, Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid forward’s future has been a constant source of speculation as he has entered the final two years of his contract. Only last week there were fresh reports that United were in negotiations to bring the Portuguese star back to Old Trafford. That talk appeared to have been put to bed when Marca, a publication with close links to the Spanish giants, claimed that Ronaldo had agreed a new contract to tie the 28-year-old to the club until 2018 and making him the highest-paid player in Spain.
But that story was not confirmed by Ronaldo when questioned on Madrid’s tour of the United States.
“The situation still hasn’t been resolved and I don’t think it’s the right time to talk about it,” he said, according to Spanish sports daily AS. “Perhaps we’ll be able to give more concrete news about this further down the line but now all I’m qualified to do is train and work.”
Meanwhile, if a move for Fabregas doesn’t come to fruition, the Daily Mirror suggests that United will move for Bayern Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger. While Luka Modric has been seen as a likely alternative, Schweinsteiger’s is a new name to be thrown into the frame. And his transfer would seem to be equally as ambitious as prying Fabregas away from Barcelona.
There is, though, more doubt about the 29-year-old’s position following the arrival of Pep Guardiola at Bayern. The former Barcelona boss has used new signing Thiago Alcantara in a holding midfield berth in several games of pre-season.
"I'm not quite sure [of his plans for me]," admitted Schweinsteiger recently, according to the Guardian.
The Mirror believes that the Germany international will command a fee of in excess of £25 million. Still, it seems implausible that Guardiola will be willing to dispense with a player who has not only become a symbol of the German giants since making his debut in 2002 but also had a strong claim at being Europe’s best midfielder last season.