Cesc Fabregas is reported to favour a return to Arsenal over joining Manchester United, suggesting Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has a huge decision to make.
The Spaniard, who left North London for a Barcelona return in 2011, will prioritise his former club if he is to be sold this summer, reported by Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail:
Sources close to Fabregas maintain his preferred destination should he return to the Premier League is the Emirates Stadium. Manchester United have been linked with a fresh move for Fabregas following the club's foiled attempt to sign him last summer. The Spaniard is also likely to attract Manchester City given he meets home-grown quota regulations.
Nick Sutton of BBC Radio 4 reported the Sun's back page, which reinforces the story:
Arsenal are known to have first option on the player that could cost in the region of £35 million, per John Cross of the Mirror. Guillem Balague, Sky Sports' Spanish football expert and Bleacher Report UK guest columnist, believes Fabregas is one of many Blaugrana stars who could be up for sale this summer:
List of players that the club will listen for offers (doesn't mean they are going for sure): Cesc, Alves, Adriano, Alexis, Mascherano, Pedro— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) May 19, 2014
With Arsenal seemingly in pole position, Wenger must now determine whether Fabregas is needed. The French boss has plenty of similar midfield talent to utilise—with the likes of Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta currently offering the side a slick passing game—suggesting Fabregas shouldn't be a priority.
There's no doubt the 27-year-old offers a step up in quality, but right now, Wenger needs to address other areas with greater haste.
Which club need Cesc Fabregas most?
If the boss is to improve his midfield, a destroyer type is needed. Arsenal currently lack an overpowering sense of physicality in the centre—there's no Yaya Toure or Nemanja Matic to drive the team forward—as Abou Diaby's consistent injury problems indicate he will only ever have a bit-part role.
Striking reinforcements are also needed. A world-class alternative to Olivier Giroud and Yaya Sanogo must be brought in and is likely to cost a fair amount of cash. Considering Arsenal must abide by UEFA's financial fair play rules, it may be difficult to achieve this and wrap up a deal for Fabregas at the reported price.
In playing terms, Fabregas to United makes more sense. The Red Devils need a midfielder who can hold onto the ball, create opportunities with confident passing and is willing to work around the centre. Although Louis van Gaal should also ensure a natural defensive midfielder arrives, United have the means and obvious need for Fabregas heading into the new season.
It's obvious Arsenal have an advantage if a bidding war is to ensue—both with the buyback clause and Fabregas' emotional link to the club—but Wenger will need to think long and hard before committing.
The crafty midfielder's return would undoubtedly signal rapturous celebration from the Emirates faithful who already possess the Premier League's most technical midfield, but would compromise quality acquired in other areas. Fabregas would be an excellent signing for any of England's clubs, but he is only essential for Van Gaal's.