The news that every Arsenal fan is dreading may have moved a step closer today. The largest radio station in Spain, Cadena SER, have claimed that the deal to bring Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona in June is a done deal but that a price has yet to be agreed.
"There is a firm agreement between Barca and Cesc Fabregas even if it is only verbal," the Spanish station reported without citing its sources.
"Several meetings have taken place and, following those meetings, Cesc told Barca that he wanted to rejoin them from next season,"
Cadena Ser said the deal would be subject to agreeing a fee with Arsenal.
It is an open secret that Barcelona have coveted the phenomenal Gunners captain for many years, so much so that the two principal candidates, Alfons Godall and Francesc Mane, have both stated their wish to bring the prodigious midfielder home. Rumours have now begun to circulate that Arsenal have agreed a £40million fee with the Catalan club. Considering that Ronaldo moved to Real Madrid for twice that fee last year, it would seem a low amount for a player regarded by many as already being one of the best players in the world with a vast future ahead of him.
Alfons Godall, the current favourite to win the election is already a serving official at the club in his role as vice president. His chance of election has been strengthed by the persistent rumour that former Barcelona Economic Vice President, Ferran Soriano, is about to join his campaign. Godall has also received the backing from outgoing president Joan Laporta, who described him as the best candidate and the man who would bring more success to the club than he did.
Godall is quoted in Spanish media as saying "Sooner or later Cesc will end up coming back."
He added, perhaps in a jibe at Arsenal's debt "We are a club that can sign players because we are respected and solvent."
The 47-year-old Laporta has been in charge of Barcelona since 2003 and has overseen their most successful period of all time winning La Liga three times (2004/05, 2005/06, 2008/09), the Copa Del Rey (2008/09),the SuperCopa de Espana (2005,2006,2009), the UEFA Champions League (2005/06, 2008/09) and the FIFA Club World Cup in 2009. Making the year 2009 a historical six trophy season, something no team in Europe had ever achieved before.
With Barcelona on the crest of a wave and expected to win La Liga again this season and to go close to retaining their Champions League title, Fabregas has been singled out as the man to drive the club forward.
Initially a young Fabregas joined Barca in 1997. He stayed their until 2003 when Arsenal took advantage of a gentlemans agreement in Spain, not to give youngsters professional contracts, and brought him to London at the tender age of 16.
While in the youth team he continued his phenomenal goalscoring record from Spain, where he was known to notch up 30+ goals a season as their defensive midfielder. Such was the quality of his play, Arsene Wenger gave him his debut a couple of months later against Rotherham in the League Cup, where he became Arsenal's youngest ever first team player at 16 years and 177 days. He then went on to become the clubs youngest goalscorer of all time in the next round of the League Cup as the Gunners cruised past Wolves with a 5-1 win.
The following season Fabregas now aged 17 became a regular with the first team, but it was not until the following season in 2005/06 that he tied down the central midfield berth after Patrick Vieira was sold to Juventus.
So far this season, the 22-year-old Fabregas is easily the stand out midfielder in the English Premier League weighing in with 14 goals and 17 assists in only 26 games. A brilliant record for any player but made all the more special by the fact that Fabregas plays in midfield and would not be considered the main source of goals at the club.
As a player Fabregas lacks in phyical presence, and the Arsenal team had to be re-organised to accomodate his small stature after Vieira left, but he has since grown into becoming one of the best playmakers in the game. He is a fantastic passer of the ball, blessed with vision and a wonderful range. He rarely gives the ball away and has an incredible knack for picking out the right pass every time. Such is his maturity on the ball it is very easy to forget that he is still only 22, even though it feels like he has been around for years.
In short he is easily the most important player in the current Arsenal team, and one of the most important players in the EPL.
It would be very hard to see Wenger parting with his captain, playmaker, best player, and team heartbeat, for a sum as paltry as £40million. Even though the Gunners are in debt for around £400million after building the Emirates and investing in an apartment complex on the old Highbury site, and have to pay £30million a year for the next 24 years as a mortgage repayment, one cannot see them parting with Fabregas for anything less than between £60million and £100million.
For Arsenal to win the title they will need to rebuild their team radically, they are at least five players short of having the quality to win the league and the money accrued from such a sale would go some way to solving these issues, but selling Fabregas would almost be a case of taking one two steps forward and one step backwards.
While everyone knows that Cesc will one day don a Barcelona jersey, he has spoken publically of his wish to return someday. He is contracted to Arsenal until 2014, and the Gunners are rumoured to be readying a deal to break their strict wage guidelines by offering Fabregas a staggering £120,000 per week, or £6million per year before bonuses to keep him at the club. Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal's chief executive, has already taken the unprecendented step of writing to Barcelona in an effort to curtail the Catalan's public flirtations with their player.
But this is a story that will not go away until Fabregas is a Barcelona player. That will happen, sooner or later.