The Arsenal-Fabregas-Barcelona Saga: The Whole Story
It was expected that the summer of 2010 will see some sizzling transfer story to evolve especially after so dramatic one a year ago and the greatest saga of football the FIFA World Cup being held in the beginning of this summer. But, most of the clubs either did not look interested or not capable of doing something that will change the scenario of European football. With Real Madrid having spent huge amount of money just a year back and surprisingly keeping faith on the players even after a trophyless season, other clubs being short on funds to force some big transfers and so called small clubs like Fiorentina, Wolfsburg etc. being able to cling to their stars the transfer market is a bit dull this time. The transfers of David Villa, David Silva, Yaya Toure or Angel di Maria were more or less completed in a predictable fashion. However, there was one story that ruled most of the pre-season and was the most dramatic of all in the recent years was the tale of Barcelona, Arsenal and Fabregas.
Barcelona’s interest in their youth product Cesc Fabregas was never hidden and neither was Arsenal’s intention not to lose him. Throughout the previous year there had been some mention about Barcelona’s attempt to get Fabregas by the end of the season. Even some stories were said about January transfer of the player when it became very much probable that the gunners would finish another season without silverware. However, Arsenal acted quick in extending the contract of their captain to 6 years and increasing the salary along with an unprecedented decision of doing that backdated. This meant that they accepted that Cesc Fabregas was underpaid for the last two years and decided to pay him in bulk the amount. However, the statement of Fabregas mentioning his love for his once own club and his native place started the speculation just before the season ended. Though Barcelona did not make any official bid about buying him at beginning, the statements of players, mainly Pique and Xavi irritated Arsenal and their fans. In the meantime another statement from Fabregas demanding his future to be settled before the world cup showed that he was not unaware of the drama around him and was not fully convinced about his stay in London. However, Barcelona’s first official bid of £30 million was rejected by Arsenal with a strong message with a clear intention to retain their best player. The dream of Barcelona’s outgoing president Joan Laporta to get Cesc back in his tenure looked almost shattered with the limited time he had.
Before going to the end of the story let us look at the interests of all the three parties involved in the longest story of the summer of 2010:
The situation of Arsenal was more clear than anybody else in this story. They have not won anything and the last few years and the team looks more set than ever this year to try for something big. Retaining all the players from previous year and adding to that Maroun Chamakh and come back of Robin Van Persie from injury has made Arsenal a force to fear in the Barcaly’s Premier League this season. With a few additions at the defence and goalkeeping they can really be the favourite to win the league this time. What they would have liked the least at such moment was losing their most influential player and the captain. It’s not only the hole that Fabregas would have left at the midfield was the thing to worry, sudden losing of the biggest star from the team would have dealt a huge blow to the mentality of the team. So it was very much normal that Arsenal fought their best to stop Barcelona from getting Fabregas out of London. However, at the end of the long story, it seemed Arsenal would have not been very unhappy to cash in from the deal had the player demanded a transfer himself.
Barcelona team looks set for another great season after signing David Villa and Adriano. With one of the best attacking lineup in the world and great understanding between the players they seem to target the maximum this time again. However, a closer look at the Balugrana team would reveal a scarcity of quality player on the bench, especially in the midfield, who could fill in the shoes of Xavi or Iniesta if needed. At looking at the age of Xavi, it is more than clear that they desperately need a player who could replace Xavi within next few years. And when you look for such a player, who can be better than the product of their own cantera and currently one of the best passing midfielder Cesc Fabregas? Recent history has shown that some of the greatest players in football world could not get into the style of Barcelona and were flops there. Looking into all these, Fabregas seemed to be a safe bet as he has the experience of playing with the Barcelona midfield during his time with the Spanish national team. And don’t forget the “Barcelona’s DNA” in his playing style as he learned the basics at the la masia. However, the possible problem in this good looking transfer was that Fabregas might have to be left at the bench at least for a greater part of the first season. Even if Pep Guardiola had some plans of fitting him in the squad, the team needs reinforcements in the defence and defensive midfield more than getting a player like Fabregas after Yaya Toure and Rafael Marquez leaving and Dmitry Chygrnisky going back to Shakhtar Donetsk. And the biggest problem of all was the money. Whether the financial situation of the club is as bad as newly elected president Sandro Rossel trying to project is a matter of debate but it is clear that they are not in a situation to spend an amount as much as 50-60 million on a player that they do not need desperately.
As mentioned by Arsenal legend and ex-Barcelona player Thiery Henry, Fabregas was in a situation that no player would love to be in. On the one hand is the club he has loved from childhood and has always dreamt of playing in, being at his home place, playing among those with whom he has grown up under the coach who he had idolised in his youth days and on the other is the club where he has seen success, where the people have shown him lots of love and where he is the captain and is coached by the person whom he respects so much that he mentions him as his “second father”. From the place where people have accepted him as their own to the place that he knows is his own. The points of going to Barcelona were plenty for him. Apart from the chance to be in the homely environment and the homely crowd it was the chance of being a part of the legendary Barcelona squad that looks at him with open hands. One more thing that could interest him in a move was to be a permanent member of the Spanish team. Even though Cesc Fabregas is one of the most hard-working, skilful and dangerous midfielder in the world his place at the Spanish team is at the reserve bench. If Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola can fit him in his squad that will automatically guarantee him a place in the Spanish team also as the Spanish team is dominated by the Barcelona players. We have seen that in the case of Sergio Busquets. However, in spite of all these leaving Arsenal was a tough decision for him simply because the position he holds at his club and the respect that Arsene Wenger commands. So he decided to wait to see if the clubs can come into a conclusion.
After the end of the world cup the Barcelona players raised their voice to bring Fabregas ‘back home’. Puyol, Messi and David Villa joining Pique and Xavi in the ‘come back Cesc’ call. More drama unfolded at the world cup celebrations when Puyol and Pique putting a Barcelona shirt on Fabregas with the help of Pepe Reina. Then the Arsenal players started to follow their Catalan counterparts and Djourou, Denilson and others started voicing their concern in keeping Cesc at ‘home’. Finally, Fabregas decided to put an end to all the speculations by declaring his wish to stay at London.
This long story divided the football followers into five broad groups- Arsenal Fans, Barcelona Fans, Barcelona haters, Arsenal haters and the neutrals. All the online forums took shape of the battlegrounds between the first two groups, both claiming that Fabregas would be theirs come the new season. The next two groups appeared at random at these forums to be shocked at ‘indecency and arrogance’ of Barcelona and ‘imperialistic’ attitude of ‘trophyless’ Arsenal. As the time passed both Barcelona fans and Arsenal fans ‘realised’ that they could lose the battle and started to claim that Fabregas is not a necessity in their teams however they would love to have him. The neutrals enjoyed the show throughout.
Happy Ending (?)
Finally, Fabregas decided to stay at Arsenal. So that ends all the drama for now. Arsenal are happy to have him back and Fabregas can also devote his time to the more productive thing, i.e. playing football. Barcelona also can divert their attentions to the other positions they need to reinforce either by buying or promoting players from their cantera. And we the football fans can wait a few days before the EPL and la liga begins. However, rest assured, the drama has not ended. Next summer we will see the Fabrgas saga part II and the trailer for that can begin as early as January especially looking at the love that Pep Guardiola has for this player.