Barcelona have said they are prepared to wait until transfer deadline day if necessary to complete the signing of Cesc Fabregas, indicating that there would be no improved offer before the player goes on Arsenal's pre-season tour of Asia.
The club's vice-president, Josep Bartomeu, and sporting director, Andoni Zubizarreta, said they would not set a deadline for Fabregas's arrival despite the possibility of a counter-bid from Real Madrid and the fact that the player was due to leave for Asia on Sunday. Bartomeu said: "The experience of the last few years and of last season shows us that we have right up until the last minute before the season starts [to sign players]. We made signings very late last season. We have the best team in the world so we can afford to be patient."
Barça signed Javier Mascherano on 30 August last year and, with him as a fixture in the squad alongside the 19-year-old star of Spain's U21 European Champions, Thiago Alcantara, they have even less reason to go elsewhere for midfield reinforcements to add to the first-choice trio Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Sergio Busquets, if Fabregas does not arrive. Despite their strength in depth in midfield their manager, Pep Guardiola, has made the Fabregas signing a priority.
Asked about the danger of Arsenal accepting a higher bid for the player from Real, Bartomeu said: "We are well aware that there are other clubs who can spend more money than us. But we will continue on our own path without paying too much attention to what others are doing."
Barcelona believe any interest Real are showing comes solely from a desire to antagonise their rivals. They believe that ultimately Madrid would not be prepared to pay more than £40m for a player who is such an open supporter of Barça. They are also confident that Fabregas would not join Madrid if he believes there is a possibility he could still go to Barcelona. A more realistic counter-bid could come from Manchester City as Fabregas grows increasingly frustrated by the Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger's reluctance to help him get the move he wants. But again the desire to hold on for his home club would stand in the way of that deal.
Arsenal yesterday closed in on the signing of the Lille forward Gervinho. The Ivory Coast international could be presented today.Reuse content