x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Guardiola downbeat on Fabregas joining Barcelona

Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, appears to have won the battle to keep the Spanish international Cesc Fabregas at the Emirates Stadium.

Pepe Reina and Carles Puyol jokingly put a Barcelona shirt on Spanish teammate Cesc Fabregas during the team's World Cup victory parade, but will he be wearing one for real next season?
Pepe Reina and Carles Puyol jokingly put a Barcelona shirt on Spanish teammate Cesc Fabregas during the team's World Cup victory parade, but will he be wearing one for real next season?

Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, appears to have won the battle to keep the Spanish international Cesc Fabregas at the Emirates Stadium.

Pep Guardiola, the Barcelona coach, reiterated his desire to sign the Arsenal captain yesterday, but says the final decision rests with the north London club. Barcelona have already signed David Villa, the Spain striker, this summer and also brought in Adriano, the versatile Sevilla defender this week, but their pursuit of Fabregas has lasted for months and Arsenal appear unwilling to do business. "I think bringing in Cesc will cost a lot," Guardiola said. And the coach was pessimistic about his club's chances of signing the midfielder. "We want him to come, but if Arsenal don't want to negotiate, he won't come." Asked about the possibility of Zlatan Ibrahimovic leaving, Guardiola said he wanted the Swedish striker to stay but it was up to the player to decide. The Mexico captain Rafael Marquez was in the same situation, the coach added. Ten of Barca's first-team squad began pre-season training yesterday, with internationals including Andres Iniesta, Villa, Xavi, Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique still on holiday.

Reports in Italy, meanwhile, suggest Mario Balotelli is set to join Manchester City. City are thought to interested in signing a right-back and a striker to complete their summer spending spree, and Balotelli, the 19-year-old Italian striker, possesses the pace to complement City's current array of forwards. The teenager has previously worked under Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, at Inter Milan.

Meanwhile, the Ajax board's failure to back Martin Jol in the transfer market has driven the former Tottenham manager close to a move to Fulham, according to a former member of the Dutchman's staff. Arnold Muhren, who was a youth coach under Jol last season, has revealed that the 54-year-old has been told he will have to sell some of his key players next season. "I know Martin is unhappy at Ajax because he wants to buy some new players but because the club lost ?21million (Dh99.9m) last year, they won't let him," said Muhren.

Jol is thought to be the front-runner for the manager's job at Craven Cottage, despite having a chance to compete in the Champions League. * Compiled by Kevin Affleck, with agencies