World Cup-winning Cannavaro is off to Dubai with Al-Ahli [GALLO/GETTY]

Barcelona have made a formal offer to Arsenal to buy Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas.

The English team will be reluctant to lose one of their most influential players. Fabregas said last month he had spoken to manager Arsene Wenger about what he wanted and had left it in his hands.

The player came through the Barca youth ranks before moving to Arsenal at 16 but has never made any secret of his desire to return to the Catalan giants at some stage.

"Yesterday afternoon we presented a firm, written offer to Arsenal," director general Joan Oliver told the club's website on Wednesday.

"Everyone knows Cesc wants to play for Barca and everyone also knows we want to sign him but there is a third party that is Arsenal," added Oliver without giving details of the offer.

Fabregas is in Austria where Spain are preparing for the World Cup in South Africa which starts next week.

The 23-year-old is recovering from a cracked bone in his right leg but could return after two months out against South Korea in a warmup game in Innsbruck on Thursday.

Barca vice-president for sport Rafael Yuste said: "I am hoping we can sign him as soon as possible. I am optimistic and it's clear he, his family, the players and everyone else would give him a very warm welcome."

Fabregas would become La Liga champions Barca's second major signing in the space of a few weeks after they landed Spain striker David Villa from Valencia for $48.92 million last month.

Cannavaro to Dubai

Italy's World Cup captain Fabio Cannavaro has signed a two-year deal with Al Ahli, the United Arab Emirates champions.

The 36-year-old defender, who has 132 caps, will move from Juventus to Dubai.

Cannavaro's previous clubs include Napoli, Parma, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.

Although his experience will be valued by his new club, as a player in Serie A this season he has been a shadow of the centre back who was the bedrock of Italy's 2006 World Cup triumph.

Meanwhile Barcelona – and former Arsenal – striker Thierry Henry has
dismissed media reports that France coach Raymond Domenech threatened to leave him out of the World Cup if he refused to be a substitute.

The country's former captain and most prolific scorer started the first two warm-up games on the bench and is expected to do the same at the finals.

"I've been reading things that are totally unacceptable," the striker told reporters at his team's training camp on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion.

"I don't know where all this comes from. The coach did come to see me in Barcelona but only told me I would not start the matches and I accepted that."

Source: Reuters