Welcome home, Cesc Fabregas. (Siu Wu/AP)

Years of rumors and speculation ended as Arsenal sold the 24-year-old to Champions League winners FC Barcelona for a reported price of about $57 million. Fabregas signed a five-year contract with the Spanish club Monday. The terms of his deal were not disclosed.

Fabregas sported a No. 4 Barcelona jersey when he emerged in Barcelona’s home at Nou Camp stadium and was greeted by adoring fans, many holding signs that read “Cesc welcome home.”

In 303 appearances with Arsenal over eight season, Fabregas scored 57 goals and helped the Gunners to one English Premier League title. Fabregas had been sidelined with an injury during Arsenal’s preseason and missed the team’s league opener Saturday at Newcastle.

The addition of Fabregas bolsters a team already considered to be the best in the world and brings one more Spanish national team stalwart into a lineup that includes Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol, David Villa, Xavi, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, and Victor Valdes — all members of Spain’s 2010 World Cup squad. But the move also raises financial question marks for a club already deep in debt. Earlier this summer, Barcelona team vice president Javier Faus revealed the club is more than $694 million in debt and continues to take out loans to cover team finances.

But the club was more than willing to take on further debt to bring a player of Fabregas’ pedigree back to La Liga.

“It took a lot of years, months, days to get here,” said Fabregas. “It’s nice to be home after eight years.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wegner held onto his team captain for the better part of two years as Barcelona tried to pry Fabregas away. But Monday the Gunners boss admitted it was time to let Fabregas go.

“Yes we lost a world class player and we are sad about it. We did try to keep him but in the end we have to respect the desire of the player as well.

“If you understand one thing, it is that Cesc didn’t go for financial reasons. He wanted to go back to his home city. He didn’t go because he didn’t love the club. He wanted to go to the town where he was educated. It is very difficult to resist that.”