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Xavi: Cesc destined for Barca

Ahead of Arsenal's Champions League meeting with Barcelona on Wednesday, Xavi has said he is convinced that Cesc Fabregas "has to end up" at his former club eventually.

• Puyol to miss Arsenal tie
• Diaby open to Barcelona move

Fabregas was the subject of a determined courtship by the Spanish champions over the summer after informing Arsene Wenger he wanted to leave Emirates Stadium prior to the World Cup. However, Arsenal rejected two offers for their captain.

It is anticipated that Barca will once again attempt to prise their academy graduate from Arsenal at the end of the current season, having lost Fabregas to the North London club in 2003 at the age of just 16. Xavi certainly expects his international team-mate to return to Camp Nou in the future.

"If I'd ever gone to another club, I'd have been thinking about Barcelona - the link is strong," Xavi said, in a wide-ranging interview with The Guardian. "The same is happening to him. But now there's a problem: now he's expensive. But I think that a footballer ends up playing where he wants. He has to end up here."

Arsenal fans grew accustomed to Barcelona players openly calling for the arrival of Fabregas over the summer, while Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol pulled a Barca shirt over the midfielder's head as Spain celebrated their World Cup triumph.

When informed that Arsenal supporters were unimpressed with the stream of comments coming from Camp Nou, Xavi added: "Really? I hardly spoke then. I imagine they wouldn't have liked that. You know, often footballers don't think. We're selfish, we don't realise. I also say it because I'm thinking of Cesc.

"He wants to come here. Barcelona has always been his dream. But of course he's Arsenal's captain, the standard bearer, a leader. This situation is a putada [bummer] for him. He's at a club that plays his style with Wenger who has treated him well, taught him, raised him. Cesc respects him. If he'd been at, say, Blackburn it might have been easier to leave.

"Look, the truth is: I want him to come here. Of course. Barcelona have a very clear style and not many footballers fit. It's not easy. But Cesc fits it perfectly."

Xavi, who also described Manchester United's Paul Scholes as "the best central midfielder I've seen in the last 15, 20 years" and said he would have liked to have played for the club, expects Arsenal to be much more formidable opponents than they were last season, when Barca won 6-3 on aggregate in the Champions League quarter-finals.

"This year they're much better," he said. "I think it's a disadvantage for us that we played last year. They had [too] much respect for us. It was as if they let us have the ball; we always had it, home and away. The game in London could have been a 4-0 we dominated so much - but it finished 2-2. This year will be different."

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