If it’s possible to have sympathy for a footballer earning £150,000 a week, then perhaps Cesc Fabregas is entitled to his share.
Fabregas’ £30 million transfer to Chelsea was met with gasps of derision by Arsenal supporters and neutrals alike lamenting the influence of money over the game. But Fabregas deserves more sympathy than he has received.
Fabregas’ return to Barcelona in 2011 wasn’t exactly welcomed by Arsenal supporters. But there was a general acknowledgement that he was returning home. It wasn’t a move motivated by money but a natural desire to play for your hometown club, especially when that club was Barcelona.
Barca were sniffing around Fabregas for a season or two before the move was eventually agreed. Indeed his future teammates such as Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol, were not shy in publicly expressing their desire that Fabregas would return home. It was understandable then that he grew unsettled at Arsenal and his arrival was greeted as the return of the hometown boy at the Camp Nou; once lost but now found.
However, it did not take long for the initial enthusiasm and romanticism to disappear. Admittedly, Fabregas struggled to find a place amongst the Xavi / Iniesta axis but it was always envisioned that he would initially act as Xavi’s understudy. But move forward three years and Fabregas has been treated as a convenient scapegoat for Barcelona who’s own tiki-taka philosophy is facing growing questions at club and international level.
Spain were brutally exposed by Van Gaal’s Holland in their opening group game in Brazil. And irrespective of the tiki-taka debate, Barcelona’s team are in transition anyway with many prominent members of the golden generation either past their best or retiring. But when it seemed like the time had come for Fabregas to step out of Xavi’s shadow, Barcelona were strangely determined to sell.
And to make matters worse, when it became clear that Fabregas’ future was elsewhere, Arsenal declined to act; despite a rumoured buy back clause. Given Arsenal’s already accomplished midfield and the need to reinforce other positions, perhaps it was a difficult but correct decision by the club.
From Fabregas’ perspective, it must be bitterly disappointing that at his peak, he was shunted out of his hometown club and his father figure in football, Arsene Wenger, failed to offer him shelter at Arsenal. Fabregas reacted to this honestly on Twitter, admitting that Arsenal was his first choice but Chelsea was the best available alternative.
However, Barcelona then rubbed salt into the wound. The sale was justified in an online statement by suggesting the player’s goal stats and overall performances were declining. Perhaps Fabregas’ performance did dip after his first season back but after that he was playing in a side in transition. Despite this he scored a respectable 42 goals in 151 appearances but as a consolation, the Camp Nou ’would always be his home’.
It was an unnecessary parting swipe by Barcelona who propagate the belief that they are somehow more than a football club; mes que un club. Apparently this sense of moral righteousness did not stretch to one of their own sons.
Fabregas will now ply his trade for one of Arsenal’s most bitter rivals. And undoubtedly this will be a difficult sight for Arsenal fans next year. But after being rejected by both Arsenal and especially Barcelona, what other option did Fabregas have?
Alan Casey, Pundit Arena.