The Cesc Fabregas transfer saga – a move looks imminent

Posted: August 11, 2011 by Balaji Ramamurthy in Barclays Premier League, Football
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

          Balaji Ramamurthy

          Editor – Football, The CouchExpert

          August 11, 2011

When I wrote my first piece yesterday for The CouchExpert, I promised that I would be dealing with Arsenal’s midfield issues and mainly the Cesc Fabregas transfer saga in a separate article before the league kicks off. And I am going to do just that right away, a day or two sooner than I had initially planned. Using Cesc’s pre-season appearances as the basis for my hypothesis, I had reasoned that some movement looked imminent. And right now the BBC reports that Cesc Fabregas is very close to completing his move to Barcelona.

Now. I am not shocked. This is not something knocking me senseless out of nowhere. It was a known fact that one day Cesc Fabregas would move back to the club he arrived from, his boyhood club and his lifelong dream – Barcelona. But what leaves a sour taste in my mouth is the way Barcelona have conducted themselves to achieve their goal of signing the player. From what we understand, the transfer fee is supposed to be around the £35m region. This is well short of Arsenal’s valuation of the player and quite frankly when Andy Carroll goes for £35m and Fernando Torres hits the £50m mark, this is ridiculous. But yes, we all already know that. Everyone knows the fee is not up to the real value for the player that Cesc Fabregas is. Anyone who disagrees please read the following (Courtesy – OptaJoe) :

1. 466 – Over the last five PL seasons Cesc Fabregas has created a total of 466 goalscoring chances, more than any other player. Coveted.

2. 28.6 – Cesc Fabregas created a scoring chance from open play more regularly (every 28.6 mins) than any player in top 5 leagues. Coveted.

3. 60 – Cesc Fabregas has more assists in top 5 leagues in last 5 seasons than any other player, ahead of Dani Alves, Messi & Xavi. Happy.

4. 38 – Cesc Fabregas played more through-balls than any other Premier League player in 2010-11. Needle.

5. 61% – In the last three seasons, Arsenal have won 61% of Premier League games Cesc Fabregas has started and 43% when he hasn’t. Leader.

Now does anyone sane disagree? The bottom-line is this. Arsenal know that £35m is some way below the real worth Fabregas carries. Barcelona know that as well. Cesc Fabregas knows that. You know that. And I know that. But there is a reason why a move even at £35m is happening or at least reported to be close to happening. It looks pretty much like Cesc Fabregas feels it is time to leave. He has been a true professional and a champion when it has come to handling the situation in public and with the media. Never has he expressed his desire to leave Arsenal, in public. He has not pressurized the club or the manager into selling him. He has been an awesome professional where he has expressed his love and gratitude for Arsenal. Fabregas himself says that he is under contract to Arsenal, loves the club and the fans and is happy but the only club he would ever play for other than Arsenal is Barcelona. Fair enough. And he has always maintained that it was up to the Arsenal board and Arsene Wenger to decide and he would oblige. “Professional” written all over it.

Cesc Fabregas makes his Arsenal debut in 2003 at the age of 16

But the sour taste comes from Barcelona’s behavior. Ranging from Xavi talking about Cesc’s DNA setup to Pique and Puyol goofing around forcing Cesc into Barca jerseys, we even had Barcelona’s presidents (both former and present) making public statements about how the player was rightfully theirs’. I agree Arsenal took Cesc from Barcelona, but that was Cesc’s decision. He chose to play for Arsenal as he thought he would be presented with better opportunities at Arsenal. He signed a contract with Arsenal. It was not like Barcelona loaned Fabregas out to Arsenal for 8 years paying all his wages. But I guess that is what Barcelona think. They realize that Cesc though very professional about all this, wants to leave. They know that Fabregas is not an urgent signing that they need to make and hence do not make the appropriate offer. And yet they pressurize, publicly, using every single Spanish mouthpiece they can get hold of to get the player they want in the longer term, for cheap. They never match Arsenal’s valuation of the player because though Arsenal have the upper hand contractually and morally, it doesn’t make sense for Arsenal to hold out longer as the season fast approaches. An unsettled captain is the last thing any team would want to have at the beginning of a new season. And it sure looks like Arsenal are looking to move on to life without Cesc Fabregas as a deal looks imminent, though below their valuation. And the £35m or whatever needs to be directly reinvested in 2-3 new players in the areas of deficiencies that Arsenal need to address.

Now this situation can in one way impact the Samir Nasri saga. If Cesc really does leave, does Nasri get the central playmaker role that he covets so much? Does Nasri get his wage demands satisfied and become the top earning player at Arsenal? Will he sign his new contract when his demands both on-field and off-field are met? But with reports of a £185,000 per week wage offer from Manchester City, I don’t think so. Arsenal just cannot afford to throw such wages at one player and that too at someone so replaceable as Nasri. And that is where things get perplexing further. Is Arsene Wenger so doubtful of his ability to find a new quality playmaker, so much so that he is willing to lose Nasri for free next season instead of cashing in and pouncing upon the reported £22m offer from City ? Now that can be the only possible reason why Arsene has no choice but to keep Nasri this season as a direct replacement for the leaving Fabregas, but risk losing Nasri for zilch next year.

Again I may be wrong. Maybe this is all smoke and mirrors and somehow Arsene convinces Cesc to stay. Nasri, I am not so sure beyond this season. If Cesc leaves, yes it leaves us with very little time to sign a quality replacement and Arsenal would be in a situation where they have to rely on Nasri for the creative central role this season and then deal with losing him on a Bosman next season. But that is next year. My guess is Arsenal are in a very uncomfortable position because of which they are forced into dealing with things only by the day and are in no situation to think long term. Cesc’s departure looks imminent and that is the sole logical reason I see Arsene Wenger clinging on to the risky Samir Nasri situation. The ensuing few days will provide us with the answers, at least as far as Cesc Fabregas is concerned.

But my take on all this? I know I am typing off on a computer here and I agree that I know nothing about the difficulties and nuances of signing a new player. But if I were Arsenal’s manager, I would have let Nasri go right when the £22m City offer came in and would have thrown it directly along with something extra, into reinvesting for the defensive positions. And the money generated through Cesc could be aggressively thrown on a quality signing on the lines of Juan Mata. In Arsenal’s situation right now, they cannot be so stringent with money as to say “We will not pay a penny over £13m” when the asking price is say £15m. The extra £2m is nothing compared to the vulnerable position Arsenal are in. It doesn’t matter if both Cesc and Nasri stay or both leave or one of them leaves. Either sale is going to generate considerable money and that really needs to result in signings that can truly strengthen Arsenal or at least keep them at the same level. It’s simple. You lose someone in your team? Replace them properly and if possible strengthen. No point sitting on wads of cash and bargaining around in the market for the best deal when time is running out. And arguments from Arsene Wenger that he was not willing to pay that £1m more on X player and hence he called off the deal is only going to anger the already frustrated fans. More so because if you claim that you have to spend wisely and be conservative to this extent, you simply do not spend £12m+ on a raw 17 year old player while baulking at similar prices for established internationals. Let us hope Arsene Wenger still has enough magic to turn this around.

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