- Associated Press - Sunday, August 14, 2011

MADRID (AP) - Cesc Fabregas is finally returning to boyhood club Barcelona.

The Spaniard’s long-awaited transfer from Arsenal finally materialized Sunday when the two clubs announced they reached a preliminary agreement for the 24-year-old midfielder. The deal will be completed once Fabregas signs a contract and undergoes a medical exam Monday, the clubs said.

Spanish media reports put the price of the transfer at around $57 million.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said the club did not want to lose Fabregas.

“However, we understand Cesc’s desire to move to his home town club and have now accepted an offer from Barcelona,” the Frenchman said in a statement on Arsenal’s website.

Fabregas will return to the club that nurtured him before he joined Arsenal in 2003. He went on to become Arsenal’s youngest ever starter a month later at 16 and was made club captain in November 2008.

The 24-year-old star could make his debut Wednesday at the Camp Nou as the Spanish champions welcome Real Madrid for the return leg of their Spanish Supercup series, which is at 2-2 after Sunday’s first leg.

“Tomorrow is the presentation and after that we see,” said Guardiola, who didn’t believe relations between the clubs had soured because of the protracted and sometimes awkward negotiations for Fabregas.

“Last year we made an offer and they said no. All the time this situation is happening, it was tough negotiations,” Guardiola said from the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Fabregas announced his desire to move back to Barcelona after the 2009-10 season, but Arsenal refused to sell its most valuable player and Fabregas agreed to stay for one more year. This offseason has seen a similar storyline play out, with Fabregas again stating his desire to return to Spain, and Arsenal trying to fend off Barcelona’s interest.

Fabregas sat out most of Arsenal’s preseason campaign, with the club citing an injury worry, and he was not selected for the team’s Premier League opener on Saturday _ a 0-0 draw at Newcastle.

Fabregas scored 57 goals in 303 appearances and won one league title and an FA Cup with Arsenal. He has played 58 times for the Spanish national team and was part of the squads that won the 2010 World Cup and 2008 European Championship.

“We’re going to try and make him better,” Guardiola said.


AP Sports Writer Paul Logothetis contributed to this report.

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