Cesc Fabregas looks set to have to decide whether to press for a move to Barcelona when he returns from holiday or to commit himself to the Arsenal cause for at least another season.
The Gunners have once again been plagued by speculation over the future of their captain all summer.
Manager Arsene Wenger may have called for all the “unpleasant talk” to stop given Barcelona appear to have, publicly at least, toned down the pursuit of their former trainee, but the key question remains — can Arsenal retain the services of a player whose heart is not in it any more, however integral they are to the team.
Fabregas told Wenger of his desire to return to the Nou Camp, which he left for London aged 16, before departing to the World Cup, when he was then enveloped within the Barcelona heartbeat of the triumphant Spanish national team.
Arsenal have already turned down one offer, said to be in the region of £30million, for the midfielder who has five years left on his current contract.
There is no doubt Barcelona still want Fabregas, but, as coach Pep Guardiola noted yesterday morning, it would cost them more than the Catalans, themselves under some financial stress, are willing to pay.
“We want him to come, but if Arsenal don't want to negotiate, he won't come,” Guardiola said.
“I don't know the status of the negotiations, but I believe he is wanted at Arsenal and at other clubs like (Real) Madrid as well — he is a great player.
“I think bringing in Cesc will cost a lot.”
Wenger has taken his squad out to Austria for a 10-day training camp, where the rest of the players in World Cup action — apart from Fabregas and Holland striker Robin van Persie — will join up ahead of tomorrow's game against Sturm Graz.
The Gunners boss knows when the team return for the Emirates Cup, where they will tackle AC Milan and Celtic, Fabregas' future must be resolved one way or another.
However, following Saturday's opening pre-season friendly win at Barnet, when Wenger was pressed by reporters on the issue of what he would do were his captain to maintain he wanted to leave, the Arsenal manager simply responded: “We do not have to speculate on that.”