By Editor Wayne Veysey | Former Evening Standard, Press Association and Goal chief correspondent with 17 years experience of breaking big stories, including exclusives like this
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Arsene Wenger rejected the chance to re-sign Cesc Fabregas because he was convinced the former Arsenal star had 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 18 months ago because the manager felt Fabregas, 28, had already started the downhill descent in his career.
“Arsene thought he had seen signs that Cesc had already peaked,” an Arsenal recruitment 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 had just turned 27 when he returned to English football and signed for Chelsea in the summer of 2014 for a fee of around £30million from Barcelona.
He was outstanding in his early months at Stamford Bridge but his performances have dipped markedly in 2015 and he is a shadow of the player who was a driving force in the team’s title win last season.
Fabregas had spent eight seasons at Arsenal after being brought to England as a 16-year-old and fast-tracked into the team to the point where he was appointed captain at the age of 21.
Under the terms of the buy-back option in the deal that took him to Barcelona, 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.
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 £25million mark and was not willing to sanction a bid that would have matched the offers made by Arsenal’s Premier League rivals.
The source told Football Insider that he regarded Fabregas at the time 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 518 club appearances for Arsenal, Barcelona and Chelsea supplemented by 100 international caps.
He has maintained his regular starting place at Chelsea this season, starting 18 of the club’s 20 Premier League and Champions League matches.
But he has not been anywhere near as influential as he was 12 months ago, contributing just three assists and one goal, and has looked as if he is struggling to keep up with the intensity of English domestic matches.