Cesc Fabregas has not travelled to Benfica for Arsenal’s friendly game this weekend, sparking further speculation that a deal with Barcelona is close.
Reports on Friday suggested that Barcelona had failed once again with a bid of €32 million (£27.85 million) with an additional €6 million (£5.2 million) in variables, while Arsenal are holding out for €45 million (£40 million).
Fabregas is deciding whether he should speak out about his desire to quit Arsenal for Barca this summer, but a source revealed to ESPNsoccernet that he has not travelled with the rest of the squad to Portugal.
“Arsenal have landed in Lisbon by now, so everyone will see that Fabregas is not with the squad, and I am not going to say why he is not there,” he said.
Manager Arsene Wenger has previously said Fabregas’ injury still has not healed, although the midfielder trained normally with the rest of the squad on Friday.
Wenger tried to ignore questions about Fabregas after they landed in Lisbon. But he told the club’s official website: “I do not want to speak about the transfer of Fabregas because I have done that three years now in every press conference so I don’t think there is any more need to add something.
“I love Fabregas and I want him to stay, that is basically it.
“Everybody is free to think what they want. We cannot stop people raising questions.
“He is just coming back from injury and is not ready to play in a game. But he is not injured.”
Of the rest of the absentees, he added: “Walcott is back in training but he is not ready just yet. Wilshere is injured on his ankle and it is very difficult to set a concrete deadline on his comeback.
“Nasri has a muscular problem. Diaby is out and Koscielny has a small muscular problem.
“Bendtner and Eboue are not in the squad because they might be going out of the Club.
“Koscielny and Nasri might be back for the start of the season. I don’t think Fabregas will be ready to start the season because he has been out for a long time and has had no games. Walcott might be back and, as for Wilshere, it is very difficult to say.”
Should Fabregas – who has, officially at least, been troubled by a hamstring problem – feature against Udinese in the Champions League play-offs, then he would be ineligible to play in the competition for the defending champions should a move go through ahead of the transfer deadline. The first leg of the Udinese tie will be played at Emirates Stadium on August 16.
Although Fabregas was expected to be among the travelling squad, neither Jack Wilshere nor Theo Walcott trained with the rest of the group on Friday morning because of ankle problems, which could also impact on their involvement in next week’s England friendly against Holland at Wembley.
Wenger, meanwhile, continues to try to strengthen the squad, but has so far been frustrated in his moves for Valencia winger Juan Mata, along with English defensive duo Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka.