Transfer news: Manchester United may struggle to entice Cesc Fabregas - but are hopeful Barcelona are ready to sell

United believe that signing of Neymar could be decisive in Moyes realising his hopes of securing the 26-year-old

Madrid

Amid the circus of the all-consuming Wayne Rooney question, Manchester United’s £26m bid for Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas remains an issue yet be resolved.

There is still no suggestion that United’s confirmed offer has been rejected, despite numerous inquiries made on the issue in the past 48 hours. The Barça coach, Tito Vilanova, has said only that the player does not want to leave – which answers an altogether different question. United’s chief executive, Ed Woodward, brought forward his departure date from the club’s pre-season tour yesterday, to fly out of Sydney for an unspecified location in Europe. It would not be fanciful to suggest that location might be Barcelona.

There are grounds to believe that the former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who watched Fabregas as a Barcelona youth-team player but found the Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, quicker off the draw when it came to buying him, will approve of the bid. But the challenge for United’s new manager, David Moyes, is making the appeal of Old Trafford irresistible to the Spaniard – like it was for Robin van Persie, who heard the little boy inside him “screaming for Man United”, as he so memorably put it last summer. Moyes and Woodward have their work cut out.

United believe that Barcelona’s signing of Neymar could be decisive in Moyes realising his hopes of securing the 26-year-old. There is a sense at the top of the club that Fabregas fears the Brazilian will displace him next season and that, added to the departure of Pep Guardiola, who made it his mission across the course of two summers to bring Fabregas back to Catalonia, will make the idea of starting again an attraction.

That new beginning could be at Old Trafford, even though an inaugural interview would inevitably centre on whether it was Fabregas who left Ferguson with pepperoni pizza stains on his suit nine years ago. (The precise role of Fabregas, a 17-year-old substitute on the October afternoon of “pizzagate”, has remained shrouded in some mystery.)

The encouragement that United appear to have been offered by Fabregas’s representatives suggests that he is not entirely settled, though the idea of Neymar’s arrival does not mean he will definitely be ousted from the field of play, with an abundance of positional options for Fabregas at Barcelona – behind Lionel Messi and Neymar, or else in the midfield three when Xavi is being rested. Neymar is actually the replacement for David Villa, who arrived at Atletico Madrid yesterday. And as for Guardiola’s departure for Bayern Munich? Well, the relationship between Fabregas and the club is not actually undermined by that. Guardiola’s successor, Vilanova, blooded Fabregas in his youth teams at Barcelona and is a Cesc enthusiast. The bond has not exactly been broken.

Fabregas’s close friendship with Messi is another factor which draws him to Barcelona and will make United’s attempts to extract him more difficult. The two players’ partners – Messi’s wife Antonella Roccuzzo and Fabregas’s girlfriend Daniella Semaan – are close and there was nothing choreographed about Fabregas strolling on an Ibiza beach with Ms Roccuzzo, as they cradled their children this week.

Where United may have appeal for Fabregas is the fact that he would be one of their marquee players. He is certainly not talismanic at Barcelona in the way he was at Arsenal, Neymar’s arrival means Fabregas being replaced as the second “face of Barça”, after Messi.

There is a commercial as well as footballing dimension to this. Moyes, for whom Fabregas is one of three main targets (Thiago Alcantara, who eventually chose Bayern Munich over United, was a lower priority), received the first public indication from Spain on Monday night that Fabregas did not want the move. But Vilanova’s comments that evening did not feel like the kind of “hands off” warning which Everton were dishing out within minutes of United circling Leighton Baines. Only if United go back in with a higher offer will Fabregas learn a little more about the coach’s feelings for him.

In an interview recorded on Monday night, before United’s bid for Fabregas was submitted, the Barcelona president, Sandro Rosell, said: “We are a buying club, not a selling club.” Fabregas is about to learn if Rosell really means that.

United have some serious hurdles to overcome if they are to bring Fabregas to Old Trafford and the odds are set against it. But there have been more insurmountable challenges .

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
news
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
Brendan Rodgers looks on from the touchline
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick