Pep Guardiola, the Barcelona coach, has added to the recent pessimistic statements coming from the Nou Camp over the club's attempt to sign Cesc Fabregas from Arsenal this summer.
Arsène Wenger, the Gunners manager, appealed at the weekend for the speculation about Fabregas to stop, and Guardiola yesterday echoed comments from the Barcelona president Sandro Rosell that it was proving difficult to persuade Arsenal to do a deal for the 23-year-old midfielder.
While the Barça coach made sure to reiterate that he does "want him [Fabregas] to come," he was forced to concede that Arsenal remain very much in the driving seat. "I think bringing in Cesc will cost a lot and if Arsenal don't want to negotiate he won't come," he said.
Now that Guardiola has damped down the chances of a transfer this year, we may see attention diverted away from this, the rumour of the summer. The distraction of Fabregas has at least allowed the Spanish giants to shore up their squad in other areas without much attention. For instance, Barcelona have now officially completed the signing of Seville full-back Adriano Correia for £8m.
Meanwhile, the second biggest transfer story of the close season, Mario Balotelli, took a turn in favour of Manchester United yesterday, as rivals City were rebuffed for a second time by Internazionale. Even though City increased their offer to £21m, Inter still refused to sell in the hope of getting a bigger sum for the 19-year-old striker, who they value at closer to £30m. Meanwhile, Balotelli's agent said the player will take his time. "I don't think the situation will be solved this evening," he said.
A deal for Balotelli may well prove the catalyst that will ignite a flat transfer market. An influx of money at Inter would certainly find its way back in to the Premier League through the acquisition of Javier Macherano from Liverpool, which will allow more activity from their new manager, Roy Hodgson.
Rafa Benitez, the new Inter coach, would also like to bring in Everton's midfielder Steven Piennar if the European champions sell Balotelli. However, a recent Italian FA ruling that restricts the number of non-European Union players teams can buy could undermine the bid as 18-year-old Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho has already joined Inter this summer. It is understood though that if a deal cannot be agreed now for Pienaar, the 28-year-old South African would be willing to see out his deal with Everton and sign a pre-contract with Inter in January.
Graham Dorrans has pledged his future to the newly promoted Premier League club by signing a new contract. West Ham had three bids which went up to £5m rejected for the Albion midfielder but the Scot elected to sign a four-year extension. "I'm delighted Graham has signed a new long-term contract," said manager Roberto di Matteo. "There has been a lot of media speculation about Graham's future but it hasn't affected him one bit." West Brom confirmed yesterday that midfielder Borja Valero has joined Villarreal on a season-long loan, with the intention of making a permanent move next year.
Dan Gosling is on the brink of signing for United after leaving Everton. The 20-year-old midfielder walked out of Goodison Park last month after the Merseyside club failed to make him a written offer over renewing his contract. After being closely linked with Sunderland and West Ham, Newcastle have won the race for Gosling, who is expected to sign a four-year deal today. Chris Hughton, the Newcastle manager, also hopes to confirm the arrival of former England defender Sol Campbell this week. The two parties are currently trying to reach an agreement over the 35-year-old's wage demands.
Harry Redknapp is set to make Stipe Pletikosa the fourth Croatian at Spurs after agreeing to sign the 31-year-old goalkeeper from Spartak Moscow on a free transfer. Redknapp said: "The best players I ever managed have been Croatian boys."
Manager Neil Lennon is considering the future of Georgios Samaras after receiving a bid from Spanish side Hercules. The striker's contract expires next summer and Lennon said: "We'll contemplate what we will do over the next few days."