Cesc Fabregas’ future was in Barcelona’s hands last night, with the Spanish club thought unlikely to sell the player despite a confirmed £26m bid from Manchester United.
The Premier League champions’ renewed pursuit of the player has come after encouragement from Spain, with the player’s representatives aware that United’s interest can only enhance the image of Fabregas - who has not fully made his mark since the Catalan side concluded their drawn-out pursuit of him, two summers ago.
It is thought that the 26-year-old wants to stay at Barcelona, where he spent six years as a youth player from 1997. But there are a number of advantages to other clubs’ interest in him being made known. It would help his personal standing with supporters if he is known to have turned down a number of big offers from high profile clubs. A number of bids would also dispel any impression that he is a quitter, should he take his leave of Barcelona for a second time this summer, only 24 months after re-joining from Arsenal.
United’s own pursuit of the player will certainly enhance the sense that they have ambition, having missed out on Barcelona’s Thiago Alcantra, whose sale to Bayern Munich was confirmed on Sunday night. But United are interested only in securing the services of the type of deep-lying midfield player they are missing, following the retirement of Paul Scholes, long-term injury to Darren Fletcher, anticipated more limited playing role for Ryan Giggs and Anderson’s struggle to cement his position.
There are suggestions in Spain that Moyes is more interested in Fabregas than Thiago. But the problem for the new United manager is that the Spain under-21 international’s departure to Bayern Munich will make the Catalan club less willing to part company with Fabregas. The midfielder said earlier in the summer that he wanted to stay, declaring that “if someone says anything that isn’t that I want to play at Barca, it’s completely absurd.". That is true, though there is the caveat that if the Catalan side wish him to go then he is willing to do so, in his pursuit of regular football to enhance his prospects for next summer’s World Cup campaign with Spain. Fabregas is viewed with nowhere near the same affection as he was at Arsenal and though he has played 96 times in two seasons, including 60 league games, he has rarely featured in his preferred midfield role due to the performances of Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
Fabregas does appear to be in a similar position to Thiago in that his World Cup place could come under threat if he does not play regularly for Barcelona following their £50m acquisition of Brazilian superstar Neymar. But he is receptive to staying if the club declare that they want him to do so and fend off United. Arsenal have first refusal if Barcelona choose to sell Fabregas, though that arrangement is more likely to entail them being alerted to his availability, rather than being forced to sell to the north London club at a pre-set price of £25m.