Cesc Fabregas hinted that he may not be at Arsenal for too much longer after saying yesterday that his next club will definitely be Barcelona
For the first time since joining the London team in 2003 he publicly admitted that when he leaves it will be to return to the Nou Camp and he then gave a somewhat mixed message that he is happy at the Emirates but wants his future sorted out before the World Cup.
Fabregas was speaking at the 15th anniversary of the opening of PortAventura, a tourist complex just outside of Barcelona. He was asked: "If you leave Arsenal, will it be for Barcelona?" A smile broke out across his face as he replied: "Yes." Asked to reaffirm that it would "only" be to join Barça, to warm applause he added: "Yes, definitely yes."
With Barcelona due to elect a new president on 14 June the attempts to sign Fabregas are coming from two different directions. Outgoing president Joan Laporta wants to sign-off by repatriating the prodigal son and the clear favourite to be the new president, Sandro Rosell would like to start his term of office with the same signing.
In light of these two suitors, off the back of another trophyless year at Arsenal, and with the sense that he can mark the dawning of a new era at Barcelona, Fabregas appears more tempted than ever. He added: "You see your team-mates succeeding here [in Barcelona] and it is exciting because you have worked alongside them for so long. I think I would like to go to Barcelona, whether or not they want me is another thing. I don't know when it will happen. I am happy at Arsenal and I am not in a rush to leave. Before I leave for the World Cup I want my future sorted out because it benefits nobody if I go into the tournament with something else on my mind."
That last message seemed to be directed at his potential buyers – if an offer is to be made then let it be made now and accepted or rejected accordingly. He added: "None of the [presidential] candidates have put themselves in contact with me so I do not feel like a pawn in the election." The Independent understands that there has already been indirect contact between Fabregas's people and representatives of both the current president and his replacement-in-waiting.
Barcelona's season ends on Sunday and next week Laporta is keen to tie up both David Villa and Fabregas before his mandate ends. Rosell knows it makes logistical sense for Fabregas to arrive while Laporta is still the president because the club elections will not finish until the World Cup has began. He has said he will accept any signings made providing they have the approval of coach Pep Guardiola.
The Barcelona coach wants both Villa and Fabregas. The idea that Fabregas would struggle to find a place in the Barcelona side as he has in the past with the national team has lost credibility this term. Andres Iniesta and Xavi have rarely both been available in the second half of his season and even when both play a place would be found for the Arsenal captain by moving Iniesta forward or simply playing all three in midfield.
Barcelona still have to persuade Arsenal to let their captain go. Barça midfielder Yaya Touré's agent Dimitri Seljuk last week said he thought his player was 90 per cent certain of not being at the club next season and he will be offered as part of the deal which could reach the £40m mark.