Depending on which British transfer nonsense publication you personally veer towards, either Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United or Manchester City are poised to sign Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas.
But amalgamating together the general consensus of the tabloids, it appears the Spain international’s most plausible options this summer are the Blues and the Red Devils, with both Premier League clubs in need of a top quality playmaker.
Likewise, you can understand why Barcelona might want to sell. In the new age of Financial Fair Play, nobody is indispensible, and although Fabregas’ obvious talent is undoubted, he’s failed to command a regular role in the starting XI since swapping North London for his Catalonian homeland in summer 2011.
So a Nou Camp departure and a Premier League return both look incredibly likely for the 27 year-old this summer, once the small issue of retaining Spain’s status as world champions is taken care of in Brazil. The only question remains is who should Fabregas choose? A Red Devils side caught in unpredictable transition, or a Chelsea outfit looking to improve and evolve under Jose Mourinho?
Having been courted by Manchester United for well over two years now, the natural pick would be Old Trafford. Indeed, regardless of who mans the Carrington helm, there appears to be a popular opinion in Manchester that Fabregas is the rightful successor to Paul Scholes that United have been desperately searching for over the past two summers.
With the Red Devils’ engine room in complete disarray, the Spaniard’s mixture of fluid playmaking and regular contribution in the final third could be the perfect remedy; Fabregas averaged six goals and 14 assists per Premier League campaign during his final five years at Arsenal and has subsequently produced a similar level of output in La Liga, whilst comparatively, Marouane Fellaini, Tom Cleverley, Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick have found just two goals and one assist between them this year.
Furthermore, with Louis van Gaal reinventing the Red Devils from the ground up, Fabregas has the opportunity to become a real hero at Old Trafford with an embedded role in the first team – at Chelsea on the other hand, he would always be just one of many cogs in a well-oiled machine.
But in order to subscribe to that theory, you’d have to ignore the obvious risk of moving to Manchester United at this exact time. Although there are certainly worse managers to put your entire faith in than van Gaal, that is exactly what the Spaniard will have to do – the footballing equivalent of a leap of faith.
Right now, United are five or six players short of returning to their former dominance and although their new manager has been tasked with the challenge of reclaiming the Premier League title next season, in my opinion it will most likely take the majority of his three-year contract to do so.
Chelsea, on the other hand, are a team on the verge of completion. Jose Mourinho recently revealed that he plans to make just two major signings this summer – one being £32million striker Diego Costa, and the other assumedly being Cesc Fabregas. The Blues fell slightly short on the domestic and European fronts this season but adding a striker and a deep-lying playmaker to their roster should in effect complete the Chelsea jigsaw, barring a few depth-adding purchases here and there – such as Atletico Madrid’s bosman-bound Tiago.
Should both of these requisites be met in the transfer market, then in my opinion at least, the West Londoners are more than ready to start challenging effectively for silverware. At 27 years of age, this will undoubtedly make Stamford Bridge a more appealing option for the Spain international. Rather than being the first brick in a long building process at Old Trafford, he could be Chelsea’s ultimate addition.
But joining the Blues would take refining Fabregas’ game somewhat. Although I lay firm in the assumption that Jose Mourinho will look to evolve Chelsea’s style of play next season into something more expansive and commendable, at the heart of it will still be the Portuguese’s defensively organised, staunchly disciplined philosophical beliefs.
Even if the Barcelona playmaker were to compete with Oscar for the No.10 role, his current average of 1.3 tackles per match will have to improve – comparatively, the Brazilian has averaged 2 challenges per fixture this term.
Not that Fabregas is incapable of doing so – during his Arsenal days he put in a number of gritty, determined and hard-working performances, especially when deployed in deep midfield. But he would never reach the hero status that he could for Manchester United; Mourinho has chopped and changed his starting XIs endlessly this year, and Fabregas will be seen by the Chelsea boss as an addition to the squad rather than addition to the first XI. Perhaps rightly so.
So which path should the former Arsenal star choose? One offering the opportunity to be his own man, play more freely in a manner more accustomed to his natural style, but presenting the very realistic risk of limited silverware. The other boasting a greater likelihood of trophies, at least in the short term, but requiring a slight yet significant change of character.
Fortunately, it’s not for me to decide Fabregas’ immediate transfer fate. But, in my opinion, a move to Manchester United would symbolise the Spaniard following his heart. Moving to Chelsea on the other hand, would be following his head.