By Arsenal correspondent Tony Hughes

Arsene Wenger rejected the chance to re-sign Cesc Fabregas because he believes the former Arsenal star has already peaked, Football Insider sources understand.

The Gunners had negotiated a first-option clause in the deal that took Fabregas to Barcelona in 2011 but did not take it up last summer because the manager felt Fabregas, 27, had already started the downhill descent in his career.

“Arsene thought he had seen signs that Cesc had already peaked,” one well-placed Arsenal source told Football Insider. “Don’t forget, he started very young and had played a lot of top-level football by his mid-20s”.

Fabregas returns to Emirates Stadium for the first time as a Chelsea player on Sunday when the Premier League leaders visit his former club, with Wenger urging the home fans to be respectful to the player he brought to England as a 16-year-old and appointed Arsenal captain at the age of 21.

Fabregas spent eight seasons at Arsenal but the possibility of a second spell evaporated last summer when he joined Chelsea for a fee around £30m from Barcelona.

Under the terms of the buy-back option, the Spanish club were obliged to inform the north Londoners if another club made a formal bid for the player and give them the opportunity to match it.

Football Insider understands that Arsenal were told of bids from Chelsea and Manchester City and were genuinely interested in bringing Fabregas back to Emirates Stadium.

However, Wenger valued the Spain international at around the £25m mark and was not willing to sanction a bid that would have matched the offers made by Arsenal’s Premier League rivals.

He regarded Fabregas, who turns 28 next month, as an ‘old’ 27 due to the amount of top-level football he has shoehorned into his career.

The Spaniard, who made his professional debut aged 16, was a first-team regular aged 18 and has made a total of 476 club appearances for Arsenal, Barcelona and Chelsea supplemented by 92 international caps.

Fabregas began the season in scintillating fashion as Chelsea flew out of the starting blocks but he has been noticeably less effective in the second half of the campaign.

This has been a trend in the player’s career, with statistics showing that he was usually more influential for both Arsenal and Barcelona in the first half of seasons.

Nevertheless, he has been an integral figure in Jose Mourinho’s team, leading the Premier League assists chart with 16, and is set to add his first Premier League winner’s medal to the League Cup gong he collected in February.