He’s a fantastic footballer. He’s a World Cup winner, captain of a top 10 side in the world, and he already knows the Barça ropes—culturally as well as sportingly—but I want no part of him. There are good arguments that he would add depth to the midfield and attack, a seriously good argument that if the team wants him (true) or needs him (debatable) then now is the time because he can spend Xavi’s waning years learning from the maestro, and a closeness between him and other members of the squad that wouldn’t break apart the dressing room. But I want no part of him.
My reasoning is fairly simple: he left. It was his right to do so, I firmly believe, and I hold nothing against him for that. I’m happy for him that he was able to find success at Arsenal and on the national team and if Torres is worth £50m or Andy Carroll worth £35m, then Cesc is certainly worth €35m.
But he left. He walked away from Barça and, again, that is his right to do so, but it is also our right to say “Okay, good luck, goodbye.” And if he wants to come back, he can come back, but not for a price. Not for more than the fee that was eventually paid for him (you could adjust for inflation if you really want). It was his choice to leave, to play with the Spanish and English laws and disappear for a night. And I cannot stress this enough: that is his right and I do not hold it against him as a person. I probably would have made a similar decision.
It’s just that Barça is a club that trains a lot of players and we cannot set the precedent of buying back those who leave the club when we can do nothing about it (and make no mistake, we could do nothing about it). It is not a question of them being “ours” because they can leave if they want; instead, it is a question of the club’s perspective on who to bring back. Gerard Pique cost €5m too much for me (or that minus whatever the fee we ended up receiving for him was). Yes, that was a great deal in the market and a total flub by Manchester United (unless you buy that Barça youth products can’t play outside of Barça, which I wouldn’t argue too strongly against), but we shouldn’t have done it.
It was also Fabregas’ decision to sign a contract extension rather than wait until his contract expired and choose his suitor. I realize that contract extensions and re-ups in Europe are different than in the United States where free agency rules a lot of the market, but it should have been made clear to him at the time that he wouldn’t be returning to Barça until 2015 if he signed that extension. Would he still have done it? I don’t know—the raise was probably pretty huge and hard to pass up. But that’s his decision.
And it’s not that I think Fabregas betrayed Barça, though perhaps there’s a smidge of that, it’s that others have not done so. Thiago has shown loyalty, Xavi showed loyalty and worked to break into the system rather than leaving for an easier assignment. And if that was the decision he felt he should make for his career, again, all the luck in the world to him. But not at Barça unless he comes back not costing us anything.
I believe in player’s rights above club concerns, but that does not mean that the club cannot decide to reject an eight figure transfer for a player that left of his own accord. And yes, I realize this limits our options on a couple of players, but I’m okay with that. If Gio Dos Santos (suddenly, unexpectedly, shockingly) turns into a world beater, then we can buy him back because we sold him. He didn’t leave us in the lurch. Of course, I’d completely understood if he turned down that offer, but that’s his decision, not mine.
Some more nuance: Yaya Toure left because of a variety of factors including playing time and wages. Manchester City were there offering not only a large raise, but also the ability to play with his brother, Kolo, and Barça cashed in on that desire to the tune of €24m, a nice €13m profit on the player, effectively saying that the team could do at least as well without him (though Mascherano was purchased soon after). It could be argued that Yaya held us over the coals and because we weren’t going to be held to ransom, he had to move. He would, then, in a sense, qualify for the Cesc Rule. Each situation is different and obviously we have little information about the precise goings on behind-the-scenes.
Because of these nuances, I understand if others have a different view. That’s okay, I get it. Perhaps the team would be better with Cesc than without and perhaps some believe in bringing back The Catalan Kid. It seems unlikely that it would be worse given the Spanish national team example of how the midfield could work. It just feels wrong, like the club is being snookered by an impatient child incapable of working through, like Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, even Bojan. Fight for your place rather than look up the ladder and say “I can’t make it here.” If you’re that good—if you’re worth €35m+—you’re good enough to earn a spot. And if you feel like you want to go elsewhere to earn money now, during what is a short shelf life, that is perfectly acceptable. But to me, that’s the same as shutting the door behind you as you go out.