One of the most topical of this summer’s football transfer stories has been that of Arsenal FC’s Cesc Fabregas. The London side’s captain who is twenty-three years old, has been the target of Spanish champions FC Barcelona. In the days preceding FIFA World Cup Finals in South Africa, speculations were rife about Fabregas’ imminent departure to the Catalan club. It all proved anticlimactic though, as he is set to return to his London side.
Barcelona president Sandro Rosell has conceded that Fabregas would probably not be coming to Nou Camp this summer, even if he expects that transfer sometime in the near future; and, as if to snuff out any such lingering hopes, Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger in a statement just a few days ago insisted that Fabregas would not be leaving the club this summer.
All parties to the saga admit it has been harrowing. However, Wenger and Fabregas may share most of the blame for that. Wenger, because of his hiring policy (which has been cited by many players who have requested transfers, as their reason for departure); and Fabregas because of his equivocation. Fabregas’ contract with Arsenal expires in 2015. He has not formally requested a transfer; instead, while expressing his longing to return to his club (and country) of origin, he has also extolled the skills of the Arsenal manager (he admits feeling like a son to him) and expressed a desire to win silverware with him. Wenger has now, and quite appropriately so, called on Fabregas to make a categorical statement and put an end to further speculation on his future.
That said, three points are noteworthy here:
First, a return to Barça (as Barcelona is fondly called) for Fabregas could hold a few uncertainties. For example, a place in the “A” team may not be guaranteed. In the midfield where he plays, he would have to contend with such “superheavyweights” as Daniel Alves da Silva (Dani Alves), Xavier Hernández Creus (Xavi), Andrés Iniesta Lujan and Sergi Busquets Burgos (Sergio), arguably four of the best and in their prime; and there is yet Seydou Keita. Confinement to long spells on the bench could prove even more frustrating than the long spell without silverware at the London side.
Secondly, Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva were once considered irreplaceable in the Arsenal midfield; Fabregas, still only twenty-three years old and with 267 appearances and 48 goals for the club, certainly put a lie to that. While Cesc Fabregas is currently the arrowhead of Arsenal’s game-thrust, a crop of young, midfield players is also waiting in the wings. The highly mobile and seemingly indefatigable Sami Nasri, for example, has proved a holding midfield player adept at threading crucially accurate passes and scoring magnificent goals. In addition, Jack Wilshere, like fellow eighteen-year old, Emmanuel Frimpong, has shown a formidable midfield presence, critical to the success of the defensive backfield. Even the England manager, Fabio Capello has them both in his plan for the future. In both, Wenger believes he has a winning pair of defensive midfield players and sees no need for any more. With new signings Marouane Chamakh (striker), Laurent Koscielny (center-back) in addition to possible goalkeeping and center-back additions, Arsenal appear as realistic contenders for the season’s Premiership title.
Finally, Arsenal FC is in much better financial health than FC Barcelona. According to Barcelona’s vice-president for finance, the club recorded (higher-than-previously-reported) losses of US$100 million during the 2009-2010 financial year; net debt currently stands at US$573 million. Arsenal on the other hand consistently recorded profits over the last few years and is even listed among the world’s ten-richest teams in sports by Forbes. Table 1, for example, shows the world’s most valuable teams in sports.
Arsenal is one of only three football (soccer) clubs on that list; the others being Manchester United and Real Madrid. Barcelona recently forked-out US$50 million for the purchase of the forward David Villa from Valencia and stridently rejected the £40 (US$62) million tag Arsenal placed on Fabregas; the club instead, made a promptly-rebuffed counter-offer of £29 (US$45) million. The implication is that Arsenal can certainly afford to play the waiting game with Barça, much to the latter’s chagrin.
A Fabregas departure, even if unsavory, may not be as damaging to the London side as many may think; especially if it comes later (next summer for example) rather than sooner.