The summer's highest-profile transfer saga appears to be over after Barcelona target Cesc Fabregas yesterday confirmed he is "100 per cent focused" on playing for Arsenal this season. The Gunners captain, 23, committed himself to the London club for the 2010/11 season after saying that he respected their decision to reject two offers from Barca, who were keen to re-sign a player who had come through their academy system.
It is a great piece of news for Arsenal, who steadfastly refused to negotiate with Barcelona over a player whose contract runs until 2014. However, it may be that speculation resurfaces next summer after the player admitted a return to his native Catalonia was an "attractive" proposition. Fabregas said: "I am a professional and I fully understand that it is Arsenal's prerogative not to sell me. "I owe a lot to the club, manager and the fans and I will respect their decision and will now concentrate on the new season ahead with Arsenal.
"I can assure all the fans that now the negotiations have ended I will be 100 per cent focused on playing for Arsenal. "I am an Arsenal player and as soon as I step out on to the pitch, that is the only club I will be thinking about. I am looking forward to the start of the season and putting this speculation behind me." He added: "I would like to apologise to all the Arsenal fans for not speaking sooner about my future but I have not known what I was going to do until this moment.
"I cannot deny that joining a club like Barcelona was not an attractive move for me. This was the club where I learnt my football, it is my home town where my friends and family are and a club where I have always dreamed of playing. "There are not many players in the world who would not want to play for Barcelona. I have had many conversations with [Arsenal manager] Arsene Wenger both in person and over the phone over the last few months and although the content of those conversations will remain private, the conclusion is that Barcelona have had two formal offers rejected by Arsenal."
The possibility of a move appeared to fade after the Gunners rejected an offer from Barcelona in early June, but that did not stop the Barcelona hierarchy and star names expressing their desire to see Fabregas back in Spain for the new season. Wenger will now be able to prepare for the start of the Premier League season next weekend knowing he has his star player in on board. He had urged Fabregas to make clear his intentions when speaking ahead of the Emirates Cup last weekend, and challenged the World Cup winner to add a Premier League title to his CV.
"I always said Cesc Fabregas will be our captain next year and that we want to keep him. Despite all the speculation last season and the whole summer, nothing has changed,'' Wenger said. "Cesc has always said he is committed to the club and he has always shown it. The best way to show you are committed is that you give your best when you walk on the football pitch and he has always done that." * PA