Cesc Fabregas returned to his hometown club Barcelona from Arsenal today by signing a five-year contract after passing a medical exam.
European champion Barcelona introduced the 24-year-old at a news conference at its Camp Nou stadium after agreeing on terms with Arsenal last night. The transfer fee is 29 million euros ($42 million), plus 5 million depending on team results, and an additional 5 million paid to Arsenal by the player, Sky reported, citing Barcelona. His buyout clause is 200 million euros.
“For me it’s a special day. I’m returning home,” midfielder Fabregas, wearing a No. 4 Barca shirt, told reporters. “I know Arsenal fans will be disappointed, but I’m here to face an incredible challenge, the challenge of my life.”
Fabregas joined Arsenal from Barcelona as a 16-year-old and has been linked with a move back to Spain the past two off-seasons. The Gunners had already rejected one offer from the Catalan club this year and turned down two bids in 2010.
Fabregas praised Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
“I will never have enough words to thank him for everything he’s done for me, I’ll never forget him,” he said. “I don’t think he has such a good image here, he has been portrayed as something he’s not, in my opinion. I can’t express my admiration for him strongly enough, I owe it to him that I am here.”
Wenger told reporters in England that his team had lost a “world-class player” and wished him good luck.
“We are sad about it, we did fight to keep him, but you have to respect the desire of the player,” Wenger said. “This club is 125 years old this season and many big players have left the club and the club went on. We want to show that we have the strengths and unity to fight as we ever did at this club.”
Though Fabregas had repeatedly said he was happy at Arsenal and never publicly asked for a move back to his homeland, he was part of just one trophy-winning team, in 2005 when the Gunners beat Manchester United on penalties in the F.A. Cup final. The London club won the last of its 13 English league titles in 2004.
After Fabregas helped Spain win last year’s World Cup, Barcelona players repeatedly made media comments saying he wanted to return to the club. Several national team colleagues placed a Barcelona shirt over him during World Cup celebrations.
‘One of Us’
“Cesc is one of us and I’m happy that he’s coming back home,” Barcelona President Sandro Rosell told his club’s website. “His arrival makes the group stronger. We have paid what we wanted to pay. No more no less.”
Fabregas scored 57 goals in 303 games for Arsenal and was appointed club captain in 2008. He was plagued by hamstring problems last season and scored nine goals in 36 appearances as the Gunners finished fourth in the Premier League.
Fabregas, who has played in 58 games for Spain, became Arsenal’s youngest first-team player in 2003 when he made his debut aged 16 years and 177 days. He also became the club’s youngest goalscorer when he netted against Wolves in a 5-1 win later that year.
He wasn’t part of Arsenal’s squad for its Premier League opener against Newcastle two days ago after missing the club’s pre-season program because of a hamstring injury. The Gunners are scheduled to host Italy’s Udinese tomorrow in the opening game of their two-match Champions League playoff.
Arsenal had said Fabregas’s transfer was subject to the completion of formal legal agreements and registration processes, together with the player agreeing to personal terms and passing his medical.
Barcelona already has strengthened in the off-season by buying Chile forward Alexis Sanchez from Udinese for as much as 37.5 million euros.
Sanchez played all 90 minutes last night as Barcelona drew 2-2 with archrival Real Madrid in their Spanish Super Cup opener. Barca coach Pep Guardiola -- who’s led his team to two Champions League titles and three straight Spanish league crowns -- said he wasn’t sure if Fabregas will feature in the return game in two days.
“I’m ready for everything, it’s not my decision if I play or not, I’m going to enjoy it,” Fabregas said. “I’m going to work very hard so that Guardiola can rely on me. If I can add only a little to make this team stronger it would be a dream.”