Cesc Fabregas will make a very public return to Arsenal today: his first day back at the club after stating his desire to leave involves a team photocall and training session in front of 10,000 Arsenal members at the Emirates Stadium.
The Spanish World Cup winner is understood to still be keen on moving to Barcelona, having intimated to the club in June that he wanted to leave. However Arsenal have since turned down a £30m bid and are refusing to negotiate, leaving the potential transfer at a stalemate, with Barça unwilling or unable to increase their offer.
Fabregas will meet Arsenal's manager, Arsène Wenger, today but it is unlikely now that his dream move will happen, at least not this summer. It leaves the midfielder facing an awkward reunion with his team-mates who have made it clear to their captain they are desperate for him to stay, watched intently by the club's most devoted fans.
Defender Thomas Vermaelen yesterday admitted the first-team squad have made their feelings known to Fabregas, one way or another. The Belgian defender said Fabregas knows just how much his team-mates hope he decides to stay. "It is between him and the boss," Vermaelen said yesterday. "They will make a decision if he wants to stay. He knows that we all want him to stay.
"He is a fantastic player, which is why he is so important for us. Last year, he played some very big games for us and scored a lot of goals. For us, he is really important. He is our skipper. The boss picked him because he is a leader. The way he plays, he also plays for the team. He is a complete player."
Vermaelen, 24, finds himself a senior figure in the Arsenal defence a year after his arrival from Ajax following the departures of William Gallas, Sol Campbell and Mikaël Silvestre. He is likely to face Liverpool on the opening weekend of the Premier League season with a new partner at the back in Laurent Koscielny, who joined recently for £8m from French side Lorient.
Arsenal are still looking to strengthen at the back and yesterday were in talks over a move for Bosnia defender Emir Spahic from Montpellier.
The 29-year-old is desperate for the move to go through, despite the club stating publicly that he will only be sold for £20m. A fee of £5m should be enough for the French side to agree to the deal.
Vermaelen said he is comfortable with taking on a more important role in the Arsenal team but said there are other players in the side who are also prepared to take on responsibility.
"If you look at the years, I am the oldest, but Bacary [Sagna] is here, and Gaël [Clichy] has been playing here a long time, they are experienced. And we have Laurent Koscielny now at the back, he did well in the Emirates Cup. We have to know each other's qualities and we do that in training."
Vermaelen insisted he and the whole club have to improve on last season if they are to win their first trophy since winning the FA Cup in 2005. "I was happy because I played a lot of games, and I got a lot of confidence from the boss" he said. "But I'm not satisfied yet, I think I can improve more, I want to learn more in my second year and just get better and better."
Thomas Vermaelen was speaking at the launch of Arsenal's partnership with Centrepoint, London's biggest youth homeless charity, the Club's Charity of the Season for 2010-11.