Arsene Wenger declared speculation linking Cesc Fabregas with a move to Barcelona "has to stop" - and is confident his captain will remain at Arsenal next season.
The Gunners opened their pre-season campaign with a comfortable 4-0 win at npower League Two side Barnet, but Wenger continued to be dogged by the question of the future of his talisman, who has been given some extra time off after the World Cup
"There was a lot of unneeded talk. It is not pleasant to read that every day. Now, the story has to stop," Wenger declared. "Cesc is our captain, he is so important to us and we want to keep him, that is why we were not listening to any offers. It was not a problem of money, just the desire to keep him at the club."
Fabregas, who has five years still to run on his contract, may have told Wenger before the World Cup he wanted to return to the Nou Camp, but Arsenal remain determined to retain the services of their captain and have already knocked back one £30million offer.
Indeed, new Barcelona president Sandro Rosell admitted the Spanish club would not "go mad" to land their former youth team player - who was embarrassingly forced into a Barcelona shirt during Spain's victory celebrations in Madrid - in time for the new campaign.
The Arsenal fans displayed an X-rated anti-Barcelona banner at Underhill, and Wenger had been left equally unimpressed by the public courting of his captain, as a string of Barcelona players, many of whom are international team-mates of the World Cup winner, urged Fabregas to complete a move 'home' to the club he left as a 16-year-old.
The Arsenal boss continued: "We can only influence our own behaviour, and I believe things have now gone straight again with Sandro Rosell.
"We always had a consistent attitude and were always reluctant to talk about Cesc's departure.
"It is very important we give the impression that just because somebody wants a player from us, we do not just give in."
Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.