With rumours abound at the minute that Fabregas is set to join Barcelona in the summer and with most papers assuming a deal is all but done with just the price to haggle over, it has made me question two things. Firstly where would Fabregas even play for the European Champions? And is his potential transfer little more than a Presidential promise?
Barcelona play a fluid 4-3-3 system with the full backs expected to get forward, the central midfielders to dominate possession and the front men to do the damage up top and it’s a system which has reaped fantastic results and worked so brilliantly for them over the years, but one that was cruelly exposed to an extent by Jose Mourinho’s dogged Inter Milan side last month. I really don’t think Fabregas offers anything different especially to this Barcelona side, just more of the same.
Barcelona’s the youth team players in the Cantera taught from a very young age to be able to play in a system like this, it means youth team players can slot seamlessly into a formation they know well and have played with for years as they graduate from side to side up the Barcelona ranks. This breeds the type of footballer comfortable in possession who’s able to use his skill rather than their strength to outplay their opponents – Fabregas, as a student of the Barcelona youth teams, fits this mould to perfection.
Depending on where you read, figures of between £30-50m have been bandied about, but one thing does remain clear, he will return to Barcelona one day, but the worrying thing for Arsenal fans is that that day looks like getting nearer and nearer after a reported crunch-talk meeting with manager Arsene Wenger with the player reportedly demanding a move. Fabregas has made no secret of his desire to return to the Camp Nou, ominously stating just a few months ago “Do I want to return [to Barcelona]? I’ve never hidden it. I’ve spent all my life wearing their colours, but for some reason I had to leave.” Hardly confidence-inducing words are they?
Fabregas would no doubt add more strength in depth to their squad and as one of the best central midfielders in the world he’d be a great acquisition, but you have to question whether the Catalan giants would be better placed putting their money elsewhere this summer, with the striking departments looking in need of some reinvestment, espeically after the club has failed to convincingly replace the now departed Samuel Eto’o’s movement and goals.
I’m not alone in sharing this sentiment either; notable football writing luminaries such as Gabriel Marcotti have questioned the validity of the move. With Xavi and Iniesta two of the world’s best players playing in the middle and a enforcer such as Seydou Keita, Yaya Toure and to a lesser extent Sergio Busquets also available at the manager’s disposal, it would appear Barca are supremely well stocked in the area. To spend upwards of £30m on a player that they will no doubt sign one day in the future anyway, would seem an odd move on the Catalan club’s part this summer, especially when he’s not even particularly needed.
Fabregas is often seen as Xavi’s successor for both club and country, but at the moment he would seriously struggle to get past, for my money anyway, the best passer of the ball in the world. Fabregas simply can’t dictate play in the same way Xavi does, and whilst he has the potential to emulate both Xavi and his great hero, Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola in due time, at present he’s not on a par with either.
One potential idea would be to move Iniesta out onto the left hand flank where he has played from time to time in Henry’s absence and even for Spain on the right in their successful Euro 2008 campaign where they ran out winners and let Fabregas take Iniesta’s more central spot where he has done so much damage for Arsenal this term collecting 19 goals and 19 assists in 36 games across all competitions. This though would be a criminal waste of Iniesta’s talents, with his darting runs and exceptional through balls at their deadliest from the centre, without even mentioning Pedro who has had an excellent first full season with the first-team and become an integral member of the side.
This summer though, I would imagine that Barcelona would look to rectify a wrong they made last summer in signing David Villa to play up top, as the expensive Zlatan Ibrahimovich has been disappointing o say the least and the way the club has altered their style of play to suit to him has cost them dearly, most notably in the Champions League quarter-final ties against Inter Milan. Bolstering their forward line should remains their top priority, the pursuit of Fabregas remains nothing more than an election tool, with the player nothing more than a pawn in a presidential game, but a transfer looms nonetheless.
The Presidential elections at Barcelona this summer will prove pivotal to any move. Both the frontrunners for the job such as current Vice-President Juame Ferrer and also Alfons Godall have Fabregas at the top of their wish-list in a bid to curry favour with the club’s members as both hope to replace outgoing President Joan Laporta.
This could prove to be the most troublesome of factors for Arsenal, who have even been rumoured in the past to have written to the Barcelona board asking for their star player to be left out of their political games as a campaign promise. This summer shows the first real singal of intent from Barcelona to pursue Fabregas’ signature with any real vigour and that could be just the push the player was hoping for. It should be noted, that for anyone familiar with Spanish football will already know, more often than not this is all just a matter of hot air, for those with good memories will know that Laporta’s main election promise was to deliver the signing of a certain David Beckham only to see him sign for Real Madrid instead and the club had to eventually ‘settle’, and I use that word as loosely as I can in this context, Ronaldinho instead.
It’s not cut and dry and whilst the rumours persist there will always be an element of doubt. But Wenger has even stated he’ll let the player return to his spiritual football home one day, the player himself has stated that he’ll return one day, so to force through a move when you’re not guaranteed a place in the starting eleven of your proposed new club would seem a tad rash and not in keeping with the way the sensible young man has carried his career so far.
When any key player at a club forces through a transfer it always tarnishes their memory somewhat and despite being a revered player and Arsenal captain now, were he to go down such a route and force a move through he surely wouldn’t be held in the same esteem at the Emirates in the future. Perhaps Cesc is just trying to force manager Arsene Wenger’s hand into some significant summer transfer market spends on behalf of the London club? It would certainly be a risky move and out of keeping with Fabregas’ character, but maybe after 7 years at the club and 5 without a trophy, the time has come for ultimatums.
It’s a transfer saga which shows no signs of letting up and as long as he remains in an Arsenal shirt it’s not one that is liable to go away either, with Barcelona’s main two tabloids Sport and El Mundo the main perpetrators in Spain. There is a feeling of inevitability about the transfer and for the first time there’s a real willingness on both side’s part’s (Barca’s and Fabregas’s) to make it happen, but whether he fits into their current line-up and is actually needed, I’m not so sure.
Written By James McManus