Barcelona have sensationally accused Premier League duo, Arsenal and Manchester City, of unsettling players at the Catalan club.
The Camp Nou president made the outrageous claim when answering a question about Etihad Stadium manager Roberto Mancini’s reported interest in Sergio Busquets and Cesc Fabregas, then he decided to mention to Gunners: “Manchester City want to remove our players and want to destabilise us,” he is quoted as saying in Mundo Deportivo. “It also happens with Arsenal, who talk to youth players and offer them a lot of money.”
Rosell’s comments may sting Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger particularly, as the Catalan club have regularly poached the best talent out of Emirates Stadium and Highbury since the Frenchman took over at the Gunners. Manchester City’s only business with Barcelona to date was the £24m for Yaya Toure, though the Ivorian was not a regular starter at the time.
Most recently though, was Barça’s pursuit of then Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas over the 2009-10 and 2010-11 season before the transfer was completed, where there were numerous public comments coming out of Barcelona suggesting Fabregas belonged there – the now infamous “Barcelona DNA” comments particularly rile Gunners fans. Alex Song made the same journey this summer, and the comments coming out of Camp Nou, while not quite so open as with Fabregas, were familiar in their tone.
However, there can be no denial that Arsenal are no strangers to taking youth players from the famed La Masia academy, with Fabregas being the most successful outcome and recent acquisitions Jon Toral Harper and Hector Bellerin both tipped for bright futures.
Last summer’s pursuit of £40m men Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas is not exactly new. Barcelona DNA notwithstanding, both players are examples of raw talent nurtured into world-beaters elsewhere, before being bought with no expense spared.
Without the moral worthiness that’s come with their success – the eulogies to youth teams and the finger pointing towards Madrid and anyone else buying success – there wouldn’t be much of a fuss to be made about either move. Manchester United paid £20m for a 20-year-old goalkeeper last summer and few eyebrows were raised.
But with the moral brand they’ve scrawled all over themselves – too good to buy in talent – even winking at Sanchez, Fabregas and more recently, Alex Song, makes Barcelona rampant hypocrites. And the hypocrisy is all the more blatant this time. Because at 22 and 24, last summer’s targets are marked as ones for the future. They’re being bought primarily as cover for Villa and Xavi, and then as medium-to-long-term replacements for them.
That’s a smear on La Liga’s pin-ups in two ways. First, their sporting domination, alongside a commitment to astonishing salary packets, means they can now afford to buy world-class players without even the intention to play them – which manages extravagance greater than even the Galactico collecting at Real Madrid, where the stars are at least bought to play.
Then, deeper than that, the pursuit of Fabregas and Sanchez reveals an uncertainty around the club’s structure, on which so much emphasis is placed. Back in March 2011, before his team’s Champions League appointment with Arsenal, Guardiola noted that Barcelona had many reserve team players like Jack Wilshere. Fair enough, Thiago Alacantra proved the point with his displays for Spain’s Under-21s this summer. And yet Wilshere is playing regularly for Arsenal, while Thiago, 20, is set to have 24-year-old Fabregas placed in between him and 30-year-old Xavi’s place in the team.
For all the trust placed in reserve team graduates and the noise made about it, last summer’s targets reveal convenience, not ideology, as the explanation. Like every other club, Barcelona trust their reserves when they’re outstanding talents like Pedro and Sergi Busquets, otherwise they buy in replacements of better quality. The morality brand is a money-spinning lie – and Fabregas, Song and Sanchez grinning and bearing it on their bench will expose it.