Arsenal was once one of English soccer's dream destinations, with scores of hopeful players dreaming of a move to a club that spent the early part of this decade challenging strongly for major honors every season.
To a lesser degree, that may still be the case, despite the North London side's decline and six straight years without a trophy.
But for captain Cesc Fabregas, it is the lure of a move away from the Emirates Stadium that has captured his attention. So much so that he is willing to forgo $6 million in order to make it a reality.
Fabregas, the Spanish international midfielder, has been at Arsenal since the age of 16 but has been a transfer target for La Liga and Champions League winners Barcelona for the past three years.
Each summer Barca has made no secret of its interest while Fabregas has made little attempt to hide his wish to leave. Yet Arsenal has managed to cling onto its most accomplished and influential player.
Now the saga has likely reached the breaking point. A fresh English Premier League season begins Saturday, with Arsenal due to visit Newcastle, but Fabregas has no wish to be a part of it.
With Barcelona having made what it claims to be its final offer to Arsenal of $60.5 million, and that offer having been firmly rebuffed, the final throw of the dice involves Fabregas himself.
According to the Mail on Sunday newspaper, the 24-year-old is prepared to give up his rights to bonuses worth an estimated $6.1 million for his role with Arsenal since 2003 and relating to the final four years of his contract. The extra money, which he is entitled to on top of his $8.5 million per year salary, includes loyalty payments as well as bonuses for appearances and personal achievements.
Sources close to the negotiations have indicated to Yahoo! Sports that Fabregas' offer to surrender the money finally could be enough to tip the scales and send him back to his homeland, where he would become the latest addition to Barcelona's all-conquering squad.
Barca swept all the titles it could last season, seeing off Real Madrid in the race for the Spanish league title before cutting down Manchester United 3-1 in the Champions League final at Wembley.
For Arsenal, the situation has put the club in a state of limbo and tensions are high. Transfer activity has been forcibly limited due to the uncertainty of whether Fabregas will be around or not. Targets like defender Gary Cahill and forward Juan Mata have been on Arsenal's radar all summer, but now it might be too late to arrange the signing of either. New additions may now hinge on whether French forward Samir Nasri leaves the club, with big-spending Manchester City the likely destination.
With just days to go before the new campaign problems are mounting for the Gunners, no league titles since 2004 and no trophies of any description since the 2005 FA Cup, pressure is mounting on head coach Arsene Wenger.
Wenger is credited with being the man who built Arsenal's modern foundation, but the trophy drought is now eliciting some rumblings of discontent from fans. After Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls salvaged a draw in the pre-season Emirates Cup to lift the trophy, there were boos from the stands directed at Wenger, an unthinkable occurrence in previous years.
With Manchester United a strong favorite to retain its EPL title, Manchester City sure to be a contender thanks to its lavish spending, Chelsea still in the mix and Liverpool hoping for a season of resurgence under Kenny Dalglish, some question whether Arsenal can even retain its place in the top four.
Without Fabregas, that task would surely be even tougher.
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