Manchester United have accepted defeat in their attempts to sign Cesc Fabregas, according to Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta.
Fabregas has been the subject of rejected bids of £26 million and £30 million from United but there has been a belief at Old Trafford that the Spain international is genuinely attracted by a return to England.
But Zubizarreta said yesterday that United had now accepted that Fabregas would be staying at the Nou Camp.
Spanish newspaper Sport: quoted Zubizarreta as saying: “Manchester United are interested in the player, but it’s also true that they understand our position of not wanting to sell. They have renounced his signing.”
Zubizarreta, speaking in Israel where the Catalan giants are currently on tour, was also quoted as saying by Barcelona’s official website: “He has a contract with us. We count on Cesc. I said that on the day of the presentation of Tito Vilanova and also with Tata [new coach Gerardo Martino]: he’s an extraordinary player who creates and finishes chances. We are delighted with him.”
The comments come a day after Martino appeared to give United fresh hope by saying that though he would like Fabregas to stay it was up to the 26-year-old.
Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, has been a mentor to Fabregas throughout his career and said earlier this summer that he believed his former player was “lacking the confidence” of being a regular player, but like Zubizarreta he does not expect him to leave.
“What I know is that Fabregas will stay one more year at least in Barcelona,” said Wenger. “If that changes, I don’t know.”
The 26-year-old former Arsenal captain has created uncertainty over his future in Catalonia by remaining silent on his intentions this summer.
David Moyes, the new United manager, has made Fabregas his transfer priority this summer but would now need to break the club’s transfer record to have any chance of prising him from Barcelona.
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that United came within 20 minutes of pulling out of a friendly match over a sponsorship row.
The Premier League champions eventually took to the pitch at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium where they beat the Australian A-League All-Stars 5-1. But United officials had refused to allow the players to line up for the game last month, which was part of United’s pre-season tour, because the stadium’s giant screens were flashing up advertisements for Coca-Cola.
This was unacceptable to United’s commercial department, who were on the brink of signing a multi-million pound sponsorship deal with Pepsi in the Asian-Pacific region, which has since been confirmed.
A compromise was finally reached where all Coke ads were replaced by ads for Mount Franklin water – another Coca-Cola Amatil product, but not a direct rival to Pepsi.