Transfer Talk: Barcelona's £370m debts put block on Fabregas bid

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The Independent Online

The Cesc Fabregas saga, dominated as it has been by the pleas for the Arsenal midfielder to head back to the Nou Camp from Barcelona's finest, may well be inching towards a conclusion thanks to Barça's financial predicament.

In an attempt to explain the lack of transfer talks, a Barcelona spokesman said Arsenal are simply unwilling to discuss the move, even though the Catalan club remain very interested. "It's not a problem of the wishes of Cesc or Barça," he added. "They simply don't want to negotiate."

However, even if the Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, did decide the 23-year-old could be sold, Barcelona may not be able to afford the fee for Fabregas. The club's vice-president for economic affairs, Javier Faus, admitted yesterday that Barça lost more than £64.3m last season, leaving them £369.5m in debt and, after already signing David Villa from Valencia this summer, unable to fork out any more sizeable transfer fees. "The sporting excellence in the last few years has not been reflected in economic excellence," he conceded.

Meanwhile, Arsenal look set to make signings of their own in the coming days as it is believed Wenger is looking to replace out-of-favour goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, who is set to move to Osasuna or Atletico Madrid.

They have been linked with a number of keepers but it seems Cagilari's Frederico Marchetti heads their list. The club's president, Massimo Cellio, confirmed they have been approached by Wenger. "The only real club that is pushing for his signature is Arsenal," he said.

Fulham

The club, Bolton and Sunderland are all chasing striker John Utaka.

The Portsmouth player has been told he can leave the financially-stricken club. "My manager is looking into the offers," he said. "We have had interest from Sunderland, Fulham and Bolton, and some clubs in Germany." The 28-year-old added: "I would like to stay in the Premier League. It is quick, aggressive and direct and there are loads of goals every week."

Fulham remain without a manager with just three weeks to go before the start of the season but owner Mohamed al-Fayed is refusing to panic. "It's business as usual," a spokesman said. "The situation will be resolved when we have the right man for the job."

Ajax

Manager Martin Jol, the man Fulham could not bring to Craven Cottage, has signed strikers Mido from Middlesbrough and Mounir El Hamdaoui from AZ Alkmaar. The Dutchman, who worked with both players at Spurs, said: "We had no options up front, but now we have two."

Bolton

The club have signed 19-year-old left-back Marcos Alonso from Real Madrid on a three-year deal for an undisclosed fee. "He is an exciting young player who has undoubted quality and will bring that into our mix," said manager Owen Coyle. "We have a real talent," he added.

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