Last week Arsenal signed 16 year old Jon Miquel Toral Harper from Barcelona. The half-Spanish, half-English wonderkid signed on his 16th birthday. This is the age when players are eligible to sign professional contracts. Although he had been a member of the Barcelona Academy, he had not been on their books, due to his age.
This has been met with allegations of poaching from the Barcelona camp. The sun reported last week that Barcelona president Sandro Rosell is outraged, and was seen scolding the Arsenal chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, before last week’s Champions League game at The Emirates.
These circumstances are similar to those under which Fabregas signed from the same club, at the same age. Fabregas too had been a member of the famous Barcelona academy before being signed by Arsenal in 2003.
Barcelona’s bitterness may be understandable but they have no reasonable basis on which to argue. Arsenal signed the player legally, upon his 16th birthday, although he had been trained at Barcelona he was not yet a Barcelona player.
Furthermore, Barcelona can hardly accuse Arsenal of underhand tactics. They, themselves, have mercilessly hounded Fabregas for the last two years. They have shown no respect for the fact that Cesc is still an Arsenal player. They assume that Cesc wants to join them and feel the only thing standing in their way is the transfer fee.
A team that acts in such a way can hardly accuse Arsenal of foul play. If anything, it is their fault for not securing Toral Harper’s future themselves.
Ironically his agent is Pepe Guardiola’s brother, Pere. I imagine Pere was keen for young Toral Harper to stay at Nou Camp. But the 16 year old obviously felt strongly enough about a move to Arsenal that he choose them over a future at Barcelona.
Will he be the next Fabregas? We will have to wait and see. He has already appeared in a Nike advert with Fabregas. If he does end up being as good as Cesc, Barcelona will probably come after him as well.
Personally, I think Fabregas moving to Arsenal is the best move he could have made. It meant he got to play a lot of first team football from a young age. Furthermore, in Arsene Wenger he had the next best thing to a ‘Barca education’. With this in mind I do not blame Jon Miquel Toral Harper for signing at the Emirates.
So, not only have Barcelona lost one of the best players in Europe in Fabregas, but his leaving may have been influential in causing others to leave. But like I said, they can hardly complain of tapping-up when they do it themselves so blatantly.
This case serves to highlight the fact that many (not all) people involved with Barcelona think they are infallible. They have not been ‘wronged’ by Arsenal. Jon Miquel Toral Harper made the decision of his own future; Barcelona had no claim over him. You can hardly argue that he has been bullied into this decision; Toral Harper’s agent is Pere Guardiola. On the other hand, Cesc is still an Arsenal player, under contract. The tapping-up of him is illegal.
The fact is that Barcelona are starting to become a bit like a spoiled child who is used to getting their own way. They do not react well when things happen differently. Therefore, this scandal will no doubt add extra spice to Arsenal’s trip to the Nou Camp in the second leg of their Champions League.
As unlikely as it is, I would love to see Arsenal win at the Nou Camp, with a Fabregas goal.