Since making his first-team debut for Arsenal at the tender age of just 16 in 2003, Francesc “Cesc” Fabregas has developed into arguably the Gunners’ most prized asset. With his flamboyance, range of passing and vastly improved goal scoring, Fabregas has become the focal point of Arsene Wenger’s preferred slick brand of total football.
As is often the case with players of Fabregas’ undoubted pedigree, the last few summers have seen the Spaniard constantly the focus of a sustained and rather unpleasant transfer saga, with Barcelona seemingly desperate to land his signature. Having managed to fend off the constant interest for their captain in the recent past, many in the media appear to be speculating that this will be the transfer window in which Arsenal finally submit to the will of the Catalan giants.
Previously, it may have been considered frankly preposterous for Arsenal to even consider selling a player of Fabregas’ quality, however his rather unsuccessful battles with injury last season coupled with the impressive performances of young English talent Jack Wilshere might just convince them that this is the best time to sell, however disappointed they might be to do so.
For fans of Arsenal, the main opposition to the transfer appears to be the complete lack of ambition it would show. It is seemingly not even the departure of Fabregas himself that worries supporters, but rather the fear that the club may well offload the young skipper and seek no real established replacement for him, instead continuing the policy of promoting youth from within. Without a trophy since the FA Cup triumph of 2005, the majority of Arsenal fans, excluding those seemingly loyal to Wenger till the last, are now only concerned with winning silverware and the selling of the club’s greatest asset with no sign of a replacement of a similar calibre may just be too hard for some to take.
Further talk of Fabregas departing the Emirates cannot be simply dismissed as idle paper gossip, with reputable figures from inside the North London club refusing to rule out the possibility of a sale. Having already rejected an apparently unacceptable bid thus far this summer, a senior Arsenal official has admitted that the club will probably have to sell, providing the club are offered an acceptable sum of money for Fabregas’ services.
Negotiating that acceptable sum may just be the particular issue that causes this transfer to rumble on a little longer, with the Gunners seemingly holding out for £40 million. Having already touched upon his struggles with injury in the campaign just gone, Barcelona chiefs may well see that as a perfectly legitimate reason to offer rather less than they would have at this very time last year. With four years left to run on his current contract, Arsenal are under no real pressure to cash in just yet and could well hold out for an emphatic fee, but with Fabregas making no real secret of his desire to return home to Spain they may also be forced to accept a slightly lower bid than they are looking for, wary of the detrimental effects of keeping hold of a player desperate to move on.
Fabregas’ apparently imminent arrival back in Cataluña raises questions regarding his own role within the current Barcelona side, do they actually need him? With many already hailing them as the greatest club side ever to grace the beautiful game, Fabregas is certainly very far from being assured a place in Pep Guardiola’s first eleven. Aged 31 and 27 respectively, the current gifted incumbents of the central midfield roles at the Camp Nou, Spaniards Xavi and Andres Iniesta, are definitely not yet past their primes.
This could well mean Fabregas would find it a massive struggle to fit in alongside such an established partnership, and it is well worth noting that Fabregas’ involvement in the Spanish national side is often restricted to substitute appearances due to the Xavi-Iniesta connection. One of the very few criticisms that could be levelled at the current Barcelona setup is that, beyond the realms of their star-studded first team, they have very little established quality to call upon in reserve, but it is questionable that Fabregas would be contented with simply taking a place on the bench for the foreseeable future.
Providing they offer a tidy sum, Barcelona are more than likely to finally land their man this summer, a deal which should represent good business for both clubs. However, and it needs to be vehemently and repeatedly stressed, Arsenal simply must act quickly during the remainder of the transfer window and look to re-invest a large chunk of that money or yet another disappointing and ultimately trophyless season could lie in wait.
Whether this deal would represent the right move for Fabregas himself largely depends on exactly what he wants from the next few years of his footballing career. Remaining at Arsenal would mean he continues to be the focal point of an impressive but ultimately underachieving team, with no guarantee whatsoever of winning any honours.
A move to Barcelona however almost assures a host of silverware, but no guarantee of a place in their starting eleven, particularly if Guardiola cannot find a system to accommodate him alongside Xavi and Iniesta. In a vastly changing game in which players seem to be perfectly happy to sacrifice a large amount of their own playing time in the relentless pursuit of trophies and a larger pay packet, I think Fabregas will be all too happy to take the gamble and will be all too pleased to return home.