Frustrated Fabregas accepts he must play in Arsenal friendly


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The Independent Football

Cesc Fabregas is fit again and will be in the Arsenal squad for tomorrow's flight to Lisbon for Saturday's friendly against Benfica, as his putative move to Barcelona drags on into the last month of the transfer window.

Fabregas has now completed two days' full training with the first-team squad having recovered from a hamstring injury that had ruled him out of any action, including pre-season, since Arsenal's 2-1 loss to Bolton on 24 April. The match against Benfica, for the Eusebio Cup, is Arsenal's last friendly of the pre-season and Fabregas had anticipated that he would have been long gone by now.

Last night, Fabregas' Spain team-mate Gerard Pique said that Arsenal should grant the player his wish. "As a friend I want Cesc to come," he said in Miami before Barcelona's friendly with MLS side, Chivas. "I respect Arsenal but they should listen to the player to know what he wants."

The clubs critically remain £5m apart in their valuation of the player with Arsenal continuing to hold out for £40m and Barcelona stuck on £29.6m plus add-ons that will take the total to £35m. Fabregas is frustrated and disillusioned with the situation but accepts that if selected at the Estadio da Luz then he has to play.

The Fabregas camp is frustrated that having ruled out selling him to Chelsea or Manchester City, both of whom have expressed an interest, Arsenal will not accept the best offer from a club in what they have decreed must be an auction with one bidder. On Arsenal's part, they are unwilling to be bullied, as they see it, into accepting a lower offer.

It is also understood that Barcelona would not be prepared to raise Fabregas' current £120,000 wages higher than what he could potentially expect to earn if he signed a new deal at Arsenal. Fabregas is adamant in private that a return to Barcelona is not about money.

Fabregas has so far refused to go public on his feelings out of respect to Wenger, but another weekend of inertia and the expectation that he is now part of Arsenal's preparations for their first Premier League game of the season against Newcastle a week on Saturday could change that. Until the last two days, Fabregas has trained alone with a member of the coaching staff. Today he is expected to be at the Emirates for a members' day event and the official team photograph. First-team players will train in front of around 10,000 spectators and will sign autographs afterwards. The press are not invited.

Meanwhile, Arsenal's 20-year-old centre-back Kyle Bartley, scorer of an unfortunate own goal against New York Red Bulls on Sunday, has signed a contract extension to 2014.