Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri have been included in the Gunners’ squad for their Champions League play-off with Udinese, despite increased speculation the pair could be leaving the club this summer.
Fabregas has long been linked with a move to Barcelona, with the Catalan club having two bids turned down already this summer, while Nasri could complete a move to Manchester City in the coming weeks.
The decision is seen as a bold move by Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who has included the pair knowing that their participation in either of the two play-off games would make them ineligible to play for another club in European competition this season.
Nasri has only 12 months remaining of his current deal with Arsenal, and Manchester City were expected to tie up the deal having provisionally agreed personal terms with the club last month.
If the Frenchman does play against Udinese it would severely affect his transfer fee, and could be an indication that Arsenal are either attempting to force the hand of their Premier League rivals or are willing to let Nasri walk away from the club on a free transfer in 12 months’ time.
A similar situation remains with Fabregas – who is the favourite of the pair to leave the Emirates this summer – as Barcelona attempt to negotiate a deal before Arsenal’s self-imposed deadline.
Arsenal are said to be holding out for a fee closer to £35 million for the Spaniard to return back to his first club, and with his inclusion in the Champions League squad, Barcelona are said to be torn between offering an improved amount this summer, or holding back once more until next year.
Despite the bold message from Wenger to suitors of two of his best players to “put up or shut up”, Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh has revealed both players will leave once replacements have been found.
“I think both are close to leaving,” Chamakh said. “The manager is looking for replacements, has not found them, and before letting (Fabregas and Nasri) go, he wants to have someone to fill each of their positions.”
Valencia’s Juan Mata is the favourite with bookmakers to replace Nasri, although any deal for the Spaniard may be complicated by the high release clause put into his contract by the La Liga club.