It took Cesc Fabregas all of two matches to win his first two pieces of silverware with Barcelona. The precursor for what was to come, and what many, including the player, were expecting to be a long career at the Camp Nou.
But it’s been struggles mixed with disappointments for Fabregas. First suffering the frustration of arriving in Spain at the time when Barcelona’s mighty dominance as La Liga champions was broken by Real Madrid, and then watching his idol move on from management in Spain and prepare for another glorious journey elsewhere. Pep Guardiola was a great decider in Fabregas leaving Arsenal when he did; you certainly have to believe that working under the Catalan and in his phenomenal Barcelona side was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Yet like the changing of the tide that came with Sandro Rosell’s presidency, Fabregas has seemingly been washed up into a set of circumstances where he doesn’t have a strong ally at Barcelona, one who specifically will guide him and give him a clearly mapped out course for his future with the club. There is currently far more emphasis on other La Masia products to come into the team, with Sergi Roberto set to make the permanent step up from Barcelona B next season and Thiago Alcantara impressing for the most part.
The obvious struggles that came with the move to Barcelona looked to have been overcome earlier this season. Fabregas was featuring far more in the starting XI, offering the team a far more direct alternative to Xavi. At that time, the numbers and performances suggested Fabregas was the best midfielder in Spain; he was noticeably attempting to reconquer the throne that saw him become one of this generation’s finest at Arsenal.
But the problem for Fabregas at Barcelona is one that had never come up at Arsenal. In fact, should the player return to the Emirates in the future, you have to think that he’d almost immediately take on a similar role and level of importance he had prior to the move. Whoever Arsenal has in their team at the time, and no matter how highly-rated Jack Wilshere is, it may be a long, long time before the club come across someone as inspirational, effective and talented as Fabregas.
Talk of a move back to England has been a subplot to Fabregas’ time in Spain. The player has been moved about the team, occupying roles that would normally be taken up by Xavi, Andres Iniesta or Lionel Messi, but to nowhere near the level of success.
From the wider football perspective, Fabregas just doesn’t work at Barcelona. The speed of thought that comes with those from La Masia hasn’t been lost, but it’s the issue of the player thus far failing to adjust to a system where he is not the centrepiece. For whatever may have been suggested about Fabregas as the natural heir to Xavi, we’re incredibly unlikely to see him as one of the focal points of this team.
And it becomes a great shame to see a player of his class relegated to a position of uncertainty, substitute appearances and a place on the list of potential departures in the near future.
There is a still a great deal of heartbreak attached to his transfer from Arsenal and the events leading up to it. But this is a player who would eventually win his place back at Arsenal should he return, if not for the nostalgia then certainly for his performances. It’s the prospect of throwing him into a team consisting of Wilshere and Santi Cazorla, with Mikel Arteta also in the mix. This Arsenal team have more leaders now than they did when Fabregas left.
You also have to weigh up the likelihood of a move back to Arsenal. Regardless of first-refusals and buy-back options, this is still a player who will cost in or around £30 million – a figure unheard of for the club. Moreover, this is another case of whether Arsene Wenger would explore the path of a former player. The positives are there, however, with Wenger talking about the possibility of a return for Fabregas, as well as the idea of him not being afraid to spend big if the right player becomes available – someone who is better than what the team currently have.
It’s been two years for Fabregas, with this season culminating in the league title. But nothing has gone to plan for the player. Even if Fabregas isn’t the primary topic of discussion, you feel that Barcelona is planning a future without him. Persistence has seen little in the way of a consistent return, and with the demands and expectations of Barcelona, it seems unlikely they’ll continue down this road for very long of shuffling Fabregas around.
The potential is there for an Arsenal return, with Fabregas acting as a signal of the change in the club’s fortunes in domestic competition. He’s certainly a player that many at the Emirates would welcome back with open arms.
[cat_link cat=”arsenal” type=”grid”]