Barça is “classless.’ Right. This is so, so tiresome. I’m sure that outraged Gunners fans will visit this site with more of the same. Perhaps this post headline should be “We love Catalan puppies” or some such, but that isn’t going to happen. Instead, here’s a little dose of truth and logic for both sides. It might not all be right, and events might make a liar out of me, but take it as you will:
Leave it to Dad. Francesc Fabregas, father of Cesc, says “No biggie,” on the shirt prank. Here are some more of his quotes:
“It was a day of celebration and anything goes. If anyone misinterprets it, they have to see that it was part of a celebration.
“Cesc has [made] it very clear what Arsenal has been and is for him. He is super grateful to them and it has never crossed his mind to do something wrong towards them. Cesc said what he wanted to do [sign for Barça] the day after the end of the league so that Arsenal had time to react.
“It would have been nasty to say it today, when they are almost on the verge of starting the pre-season. But he always did so thinking about Arsenal. It remains to be seen how everything turns out.”
Hmmm …. so I’m going to call BS on Fabregas Sr. and the uncertainly he’s drumming up, with ….
Fabregas isn’t coming to Barça this summer. Now, most cules who understand the game and how we play it are very happy about that for a number of reasons, but first and foremost because his transfer price would argue for a starting role, which weakens our team. Can’t sit Xavi, or Iniesta, and we shouldn’t sit Keita or Busquets. So where does Fabregas play? Find me a club with a 50m+ squad player. Yes, Iniesta will get hurt, as he always does, and Xavi could use the rest, etc. But how long will it take after Fabregas were to come before Sport and EMD start squawking about “We paid for him, why isn’t he starting?” Countervailing arguments will be that his price is only going to go up from here as he ages and improves, and this is true. I just think that he isn’t needed, and Wenger is too adamant about this transaction, at any price.
So he stays put, and hopefully Arsenal will win some silver so then Wenger can keep him (unless he decides to leave after this coming season), instead of snarking at Rosell about the way his captain was pursued, not that I think any such pursuit was legitimate or based in reality. (More on that later.)
Fabregas could have ended this at any time. Just speak up, something along the lines of “The Barça rumors are nonsense, I’m not going anywhere, so relax.” Yes, he dedicated the WC win to Arsenal fans, which was a very classy gesture. Why not go the one step farther and say “And you’ll have me for as long as you want me.” Because rare is the player who would make that promise, particularly a young, ambitious one.
The shirt prank was silly, but not Armageddon. Just like Fabregas Sr. said. Further, find me a drunk person (whether on booze or success) who has done anything logical and intelligent while in that state. I believe that the gesture was to poke fun at the incessant rumor-mongering and prattle. No, it wasn’t part of an organized campaign to finalize the transfer of Fabregas, and anyone who would think that is paranoid. If Fabregas wants to leave, he will submit a transfer request and then let his soon-to-be former club handle it. It isn’t as if touching a Barça shirt is going to be contagious, like cooties or something.
For the record, the players should have understood the context and not done it. But people do stupid stuff all the time. But to label an entire club “classless,” to suggest that the adolescent-minded prank was the final straw in the attempt to lure Fabregas to Barça is (and there is no other way to put this) crazy. Flat-out, full-on, eyes spinning like pinwheels crazy.
Iniesta disavowed any knowledge of, or participation in the prank. He added that yes, it would be a delight to play with Fabregas at Barça. Duh. What does anyone suppose any Arsenal player would say if asked what it would be like to play with Messi? What player would say “I’d rather not answer that, because it might be construed as tapping up.”
None. So when Barça players are asked about Fabregas, they say what anyone would say about the potential of playing alongside a world-class player. They weren’t coached by the club, or handed scripts of words to say, with underlinings in the margins that say “Now say these words exactly, because we have to unsettle Fabregas just so, in order that he will come.”
Come on. Really? I know that people think Barça is evil, but really?
Arsenal is a big club. It’s one of the biggest in the world in terms of reputation, so it should stop acting like some segunda side. “You’re talking about our player! Stop that, lest he be unable to resist the lure of you, jezebel.” It doesn’t work like that. Players are grownups, Arsenal is a top-four perennial in the Premiership. There are three ways to keep players: silver (trophies), gold (salary) and platinum (playing time). Give them all three, and they’re yours forever.
Further, if we have really been tapping up Fabregas, there are legal avenues to pursue that are available. As of yet this hasn’t happened, and I confess to not being sure why, if in fact we have been tapping up Fabregas. As I’ve said, alleged meetings have or haven’t taken place, contact has or hasn’t taken place. Who knows?
Know your history. Fabregas was the heavy election pawn in the race between Sandro Rosell, the eventual winner and current Barça president and Joan Laporta, the most recent Barça president, and backer of a Continuity slate. Had Laporta been able to get a Fabregas deal done (he wasn’t going to, and everybody who understands the business of this game knows that) before the World Cup, his Continuity slate would have breezed to victory. So you pay lip service to the cause even as you know it isn’t going to happen, and you hope that it will help your folks in the election.
Rosell did the same thing in order to win the “more Catalan than thou” contest, by pledging to bring our “native son” home. Fabregas left in search of playing time and stardom, and has received both. His home, until he decides otherwise, is with Arsenal, in the Premiership. Understand election promises and what they mean. If Rosell were to have taken office and dropped the fundamentally nonexistent Fabregas pursuit, it would have looked bad to the fans and supporters. So you meet with Wenger, he tells you to go to hell, and you can shrug your shoulders and say that you tried. Then you can resume the task of strengthening your squad with players that it actually needs.
We don’t do business that way. Think about the way that Barça does business. When has the club ever conducted a protracted, very public courtship of a player? Names pop up and suddenly a deal is done. The Yaya, Henry, Hleb, Txigrinski, Keita. Alves was about the most difficult recent transfer. David Villa is more the typical Barça transfer. Or Ibrahimovic, or Maxwell. The deal just gets done. It’s how Guardiola prefers it, it’s how Laporta and Txiki B. preferred it, it’s how any right-minded technical staff prefers it. The more the name is out there, the higher the price is. It’s why I believe that Barça have no intention of buying, or even seriously trying to buy Fabregas this season. Our first offer was a joke, and a bad one. Everybody knows that who knows anything about the current transfer market. By Rosell saying that Barça won’t pay more than 50m for Fabregas, even though he knows his valuation is, and should be higher than that (Kaka, anyone?), he is in effect saying “We aren’t serious about making this deal.”
Anyone who thinks that Barça doesn’t respect Arsenal is misguided. It’s a big club to big club relationship. Yes, the Spanish sporting press is stupid for acting like Fabregas was something that was stolen in the middle of the night. Yes, the politicians are stupid for acting like Fabregas is just sitting, weepy-eyed, at Arsenal, clutching a senyera like a security blanket, muttering “Take me home” en Catala. But it is impossible for a big club to unsettle the star player of another big club. The player either wants to leave, or he doesn’t. Citeh players and management could dance the mambo in a conga line while wearing thongs with Messi’s picture on them, and Messi isn’t leaving Barça. I wouldn’t want to see it, but it wouldn’t affect Messi’s desire to remain with the club.
You silly, bankrupt Catalans should leave our captain alone and figure out how to save your club. All big clubs have debts. Arsenal has debt, in the hundreds of millions, just like Barça. Any unbiased story lays that out quite clearly. Debt is the cost of competing on the international scene. Simple as that. Barça isn’t in any more danger of going into receivership than Arsenal or United or Chelsea is. Debt gets restructured, loans are taken out to pay bills that help a club restructure, or defer a bit of debt that is easily repaid. It happens all the time, and will continue to happen.
It’s just a game. Lighten up. Players come, and players go. This season, we lost an iconic Barça player and man-mountain in The Yaya (who will always be The Yaya to me). He left because of playing time and guarantees thereof, one of the big three planks in player retention. It happens, and is part of the game, a game played by childlike grown men, a game that is also a business. But he also left because the time was right to sell him. His price was never going to be higher, and his wages were never going to be lower. Perfect time to sell. Nobody knows what the outcome is going to be in the Fabregas affair ultimately (as in way down the road). I do know that it isn’t worth all of the bile and invective that has been spewed.
And that’s what I know.
P.S. This post is going to appear in news filters. It is my attempt to put this whole matter into some perspective. In this space, we don’t mind debate, even spirited debate. But uncivil communication will be deleted. Summarily. Let’s have this be a space where this matter can be discussed by folks who understand the game, even the oft-impure, business side of it.