Pep tests Arsenal’s Fabregas resolve

ARSENAL continue to face a battle to hold onto captain Cesc Fabregas — with Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola vowing the Champions League holders will fight to the end to bring their former trainee back to the Nou Camp.

While there has been no formal statement from the Gunners and despite manager Arsene Wenger’s personal determination to keep hold of his key man, possibly even under improved terms, it appears inevitable Fabregas will leave before the transfer window shuts on August 31.

However, whether or not Barcelona will be able to stump up the £45 million (€51 million) fee Arsenal demand for their 24-year-old skipper remains unclear, with Guardiola claiming money was set aside to complete the deal yet Gunners chairman Peter Hill-Wood maintaining no improved offer had been lodged from the Spaniard’s initial £26m enquiry at the start of the summer.

Guardiola says Barca have prioritised the signing Udinese forward Alexis Sanchez over bringing Fabregas back to the Nou Camp. But he had been told the money was available to complete both transfers and claimed Arsenal have agreed to negotiate the sale of Fabregas.

“The priority is a striker, as we have more players in midfield than up front,” Guardiola said.

“There are midfielders in the B team that can help us out. Everything costs money, but it’s a striker we need.

“As (sporting director) Andoni (Zubizarreta) has told me, there is enough money to sign them (Sanchez and Fabregas) both, and we’ll be trying to do that.”

Guardiola earlier said: “Arsenal have agreed to negotiate and we will try to reach an agreement.

“There is money set aside for this player and until the last day we will try to bring in Cesc because he will make the squad better.

“I hope that something can be sorted. Until August 31 there is time, but things don’t always work out.”

Fabregas did not take part in Arsenal’s Asia tour, remaining behind in London to work on his fitness following a hamstring problem.

The World Cup winner may not also be included for Saturday’s friendly in Cologne, but new signing Gervinho could make the trip to Germany after finally completing his £11m move from Lille.

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis maintains Wenger still has plenty of funds available should he wish to spend them. The Gunners have been expected to bring in some more defensive cover, with Germany international Per Mertesacker and Bolton’s England defender Gary Cahill reported targets, while Valencia midfielder Juan Mata and Bosnian playmaker Miralem Pjanic, at Lyon, are both possible additions should Fabregas leave.

One deal, though, which looks set to have fallen by the wayside is for promising Costa Rica forward Joel Campbell — and it’s believed Manchester United could be the side who have scuppered the deal.

The 19-year-old was all set for a £900,000 move from Deportivo Saprissa.

However, it now appears talks have broken down, after the 19-year-old failed to turn up for a pre-medical meeting earlier yesterday.

The player’s father Humberto Campbell said: “We already decided not to sign anything yet, we are going to wait until the U20 World Cup finishes, so that Joel can go and play with calm and without pressure, then we will see what happens.”

It’s believed Manchester United may have expressed their interest in picking up the starlet.

Saprissa president Juan Carlos Rojas told La Nacion newspaper: “It is a disappointment for football, for Saprissa and for me that they have decided not to take up an offer from as serious and first-class people as Arsenal. I hope that it works out for Joel.

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