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Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011

Fabregas signs five-year contract in Barcelona return


BARCELONA, Spain — Cesc Fabregas' long awaited return to his boyhood club finally was finalized Monday when he signed a five-year contract with European champion Barcelona.

News photo
Back home: Cesc Fabregas holds up his new shirt on Monday after joining Barcelona in a transfer deal from Arsenal. AP

"It took a lot of years, months, days to get here . . . it's nice to be home after eight years," the former Arsenal captain said in Catalan during his presentation to fans at Nou Camp, where he repeatedly kissed the Barcelona crest on his new No. 4 jersey.

But while the 24-year-old Fabregas said it was one of the happiest days of his life to once again don Barcelona's burgundy and blue, he acknowledged it was also bittersweet that he didn't leave Arsenal as a winner.

"I gave everything. But it didn't show in the club because I really only won an F.A. Cup," Fabregas said. "One of my biggest regrets is not leaving Arsenal with a championship."

Fabregas joined Arsenal in 2003 as a 16-year-old prospect from Barcelona's La Masia academy. Within a month the Catalan playmaker became the youngest starter in Arsenal's history at 16.

The major titles, however, never came.

"It wasn't really the losing, it was the routine. Year after year, it was always the same story," Fabregas said. "Fighting until the end only to see we didn't have the energy, in the semifinals, the finals, to arrive in the final sprint."

Fabregas, a member of Spain's 2008 European champion squad and 2010 World Cup title-winning team, said his goal is to "triumph in Barca, to add my part to make this team stronger."

Fabregas trained with his new teammates later on Monday, getting his first taste of where exactly he will fit into Barcelona's talented squad, which already includes Lionel Messi, Spanish teammates Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, and fellow newcomer Alexis Sanchez.

A set starter with Arsenal, Fabregas accepts he'll share playing time at Barcelona.

"This is the most difficult challenge of my life," Fabregas said. "When you play with great players you learn a lot. I'll work hard for the team, with humility, to earn my spot in the team and I won't stop until I do so."

As a youngster, Fabregas played with Messi and defender Gerard Pique on Barcelona's youth teams.

Barcelona hopes it has found the natural successor to the 31-year-old Xavi and the 27-year-old Iniesta, and a possible mentor for 20-year-old Thiago Alcantara, who should also get minutes this season in midfield.

Barcelona said it paid ?29 million ($42 million) to Arsenal, with provisions to increase the amount to ?39 million ($56 million).

Fabregas himself will pay the Gunners ?1 million ($1.4 million) out of his salary for each season of the deal, and the Spanish champions will pay up to ?5 million ($7 million) more depending on trophies won.

The contract includes a buyout clause of ?200 million ($286 million).

Fabregas announced his desire to move back to Barcelona after the 2009-10 season, but Arsenal refused to sell its captain, and Fabregas agreed to stay for one more year.

"There have been some long weeks, months, of suffering. Not the worst suffering of my life, but yes these have been difficult days not knowing what my future would be," Fabregas said. "It appeared it would never end."

Aguero leads Man City


Manchester, England — Sergio Aguero scored two goals and set up another in his debut to help Manchester City beat newcomer Swansea 4-0 on Monday night and give the Welsh club a harsh welcome to the Premier League.

The Argentina striker came on as a substitute and needed just 30 minutes to show why big-spending City made him its record signing for a reported £38 million this offseason. After nearly scoring with his first touch, Aguero made it 2-0 in the 67th with an easy tap-in before launching a long-range strike that beat goalkeeper Michel Vorm in injury time.

In between, he provided a spectacular assist for David Silva for City's third goal, chasing down his own chip over Vorm before it went over the touchline and kicking it back over his head for the Spaniard to slot into the net.

"He is a fantastic striker," City manager Roberto Mancini said. "He's young, I think for us he will be a fantastic player in the future."

In contrast, Swansea's own record signing Danny Graham was relatively anonymous in his debut.

Vorm had made a string of good saves to help Swansea withstand relentless pressure from City before Edin Dzeko put the hosts ahead in the 57th.

The striker capitalized on Vorm's first inaccuracy, slotting a rebound into the empty net after the goalkeeper failed to control Adam Johnson's shot from the right side of the area.

After that, it was all about Aguero. After replacing Nigel de Jong in the 62nd, the Argentine nearly scored the first time he touched the ball, receiving a pass at the edge of the area and turning deftly to fire a shot that forced Vorm into a diving save.

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