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. There is no rush, we have until the last moment."
Barça signed Javier Mascherano on 30 August last year and, with him now a fixture in the squad alongside the 19-year-old star of Spain's Under-21 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 Sergi Busquets, if Fabregas does not arrive.
Despite their strength in depth in midfield their manager, Pep Guardiola, has made the Fabregas signing the priority ahead of his fourth season at the helm but Barcelona's directors stressed that they were prepared to sit things out until the end of August if necessary. Brazilian full-back Maxwell has been offered to Arsenal to help unblock negotiations but Arsène Wenger wants money not players.
Asked about the danger of Arsenal accepting a higher bid for the player from Real Madrid, 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 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.
Asked about Sunday being D-day for Fabregas, Zubizarreta reiterated that Barcelona are prepared to show patience over a deal. He said: "We want to work with discretion. If you are not creating big headlines then it can seem that you are not doing anything but there are other ways of working that are not so visible.
Barcelona are happy to let Fabregas join Wenger in Asia and believe his demeanour – that of a player who wants to be somewhere else – will help convince Arsenal to sell. "We are grateful to those players that want to join us," he added.
Reports last night linked Arsenal with the Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema. The 23-year-old France international is not believed to be in the long-term plans of Real coach Jose Mourinho but would still cost around £20m, while there are question marks over the Premier League club's ability to match his wage demands.
Arsenal yesterday closed in on the signing of the 24-year-old Lille forward Gervinho. The Ivory Coast international could be presented today as Wenger looks to give Arsenal supporters something a little more positive than news of players leaving or expressing a desire to leave the club.
Gervinho scored 15 times last season and also reached double figures with goal assists as he helped Lille end a 57-year wait for the French title.
Barcelona completed the €2m (£1.79m) signing of Kiko Femenia from Hercules yesterday. The midfielder will play for the club's B-team. "We had €45m to spend, now we have €43m," said Zubizarreta.Reuse content