08/14/2011 05:27 EDT | Updated 10/14/2011 05:12 EDT

Cesc Fabregas' long-awaited transfer from Arsenal to Barcelona finally set

MADRID - Cesc Fabregas is finally returning to his boyhood club Barcelona.

The Spaniard's long-awaited transfer from Arsenal finally materialized Sunday when the two clubs announced they had reached a preliminary agreement for the 24-year-old midfielder.

The deal will be completed once Fabregas signs his contract and undergoes a medical exam on Monday, the clubs said.

Spanish media reports put the price of the transfer at around 40 million euros (C$56.4 million).

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said the club was reluctant to let Fabregas go.

"However, we understand Cesc's desire to move to his home town club and have now accepted an offer from Barcelona," the Frenchman said in a statement on Arsenal's website.

Fabregas will return to the club that nurtured him before he joined Arsenal in 2003. He went on to become Arsenal's youngest ever starter only one month later at 16 and was made club captain in November 2008.

"It's been costly, a saga of two years. It's like when a son returns home because we consider him one of us," Barcelona president Sandro Rossell said.

The 24-year-old playmaker could make his debut Wednesday at the Camp Nou as the Spanish champions welcome Real Madrid for the return leg of their Spanish Supercup series, after a 2-2 draw in Sunday's first leg.

"Tomorrow is the presentation and after that we see," said Guardiola, who didn't believe relations between the clubs had soured because of the protracted and sometimes awkward negotiations for Fabregas.

"Last year we made an offer and they said no. All the time this situation is happening, it was tough negotiations," Guardiola said from the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Fellow Barcelona youth team graduate Andres Iniesta said he was happy Fabregas had joined.

"We already know all about him and hopefully he can show everything that he is — a great player," Iniesta said. "We are happy that he can be here, that he can train and from now on he is one more (of us)."

Barcelona defender Daniel Alves said drawn out transfers were hard on players.

"It's been a very long story and in the end you have a bad time living through those situations. They are uncomfortable situations for a player," the Brazilian said.

"The most important thing is that it's been resolved and that he's finally here and we welcome him."

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

"I cannot deny that joining a club like Barcelona was an attractive move for me," Fabregas said in a statement at the time. "This was the club where I learnt my football. It is my hometown where my friends and family are and a club where I have always dreamed of playing."

This off-season has seen a similar storyline play out, with Fabregas again stating his desire to return to Spain, and Arsenal trying to fend off Barcelona's interest.

Fabregas sat out most of Arsenal's pre-season campaign, with the club citing an injury worry, and he was not selected for the team's Premier League opener on Saturday — a 0-0 draw at Newcastle.

Fabregas scored 57 goals in 303 appearances and won one league title and an FA Cup with Arsenal. He has played 58 times for the Spanish national team and was part of the squads that won the 2010 World Cup and 2008 European Championship.

"We're going to try and make him better," Guardiola said.