No Surprises

We’ve been prepared for this moment ever since Cesc burst onto the scene and announced himself as a super prospect when he started playing alongside Patrick Vieira in 2004. I had heard a story that before Cesc signed for us at the age of 16 that he begged Barcelona for an opportunity to prove himself and his pleas were rebuffed. Now, I don’t know if that story is true or not, but I don’t remember Barcelona pitching much of a fit when we initially signed him. It’s only after his cerebral brain proved to be old enough to play in one of the top leagues in the world at the age of 18 that Barcelona claimed outrage. Regardless, the fact that Cesc would want to return to Barcelona was never up for debate, it was a matter of when.

– Hopeful Gooners wished upon a star that he would stay until he was 30. Most Gooners might have imagined him leaving to replace an aging Xavi. Pessimistic Gooners thought the date was right around the corner. Having just watched the Arsenal Season Review of last year, the last couple of months probably made Cesc more anxious to leave than ever.

– Consider what happened. We were destroyed by Messi in the Champions League. Fabianski singlehandedly exploded a grenade in our face. Barcelona repeated in La Liga. Spain won the World Cup. Pique and Puyol whispered sweet nothings into his ear for the last three months.

– On a complete side note, the subject of Cesc’s controversial transfer when he arrived at Arsenal was not controversial at all. In England, anybody aged 16 can sign a professional contract with anybody they want. Not all of Barcelona’s famed players come through La Masia at a young age. Puyol was 17 when he joined, Busquets was 17 when he joined, Pedro was 17 when he joined, Jeffren was 16 when he joined, and Messi was 11 when he joined but from a foreign country and mainly came over to enjoy human growth hormone treatment. There’s nothing wrong with this at all, but what is the difference with what we did with Cesc and what Barcelona did with those players? Nothing. So, when they claim that Cesc isn’t worth more than 35 million pounds because they reared him, it’s code talk for “we’re broke”.

– My colleague stated that he wasn’t bothered about Barcelona players talking about their desire for Cesc to join Barcelona. I’d agree with most of that, but I don’t appreciate it when the line is crossed. For me, the line gets crossed when Puyol starts to almost refer to Arsenal as a “prison” and when Xavi says Cesc “deserves better than Arsenal”. The people of New Orleans deserved better. Cesc is being paid 90,000 pounds a week and plays for one of the most glamorous sides in Europe. I don’t mind them talking all the time, but it feels like a systematic ploy to drive the price down. Talk about Cesc all you want, just don’t slander our club. Puyol claims we should “show more class”. Well, Wenger said he wouldn’t complain about Barcelona’s constant stream of Cesc foreplay, classy enough for you? They must all have their separate days in which one of their teammates will talk about Cesc. Keep talking, it’s not as if Wenger is listening.

– Perhaps the thing that really bothers me is that there’s clearly truth behind these words. Cesc does want to leave. There’s no doubting that. His respect for Wenger and the fans are what’s preventing him from going even more public or handing in a transfer request. All we had heard from Cesc is that he had a conversation with Wenger that was one of the hardest things he’s ever had to go through. We can infer all we like, but Wenger is not talking about it. Instead, Arsene is adamant that he’ll stay. Taggart did this two years ago with Cristiano Ronaldo.

– My colleague has also raised the point that this saga has done harm to our team. He’s asked whether or not Cesc will be fully committed and whether or not the other players will fully trust him. It’s a valid thing to consider, but I think once Cesc knows he’s going to stay for the year, he’ll buck up and give it his all. He’s a true professional and he’s not going to sulk; he simply respects Arsenal too much. Kobe Bryant requested a trade from the Lakers a few years ago. In his first game, he was booed at Staples. Regardless of that, he played to his full capacity and the team performed so well that he rescinded his trade request and started a run of three consecutive Finals runs culminating in back to back Championships. That saga tested me fully as a sports fan, because that was the same summer that Henry left Arsenal. When the word circulated that Cesc wanted out, I wasn’t pleased, but I wasn’t crushed.

– As much as we do not want to have an unsettled player on our squad, what is most important to me is establishing a hard line of negotiation. Quite simply, we hold all the cards and Barcelona knows it. Take a club like Lyon for example. Jean-Michel Aulas is amongst the best transfer operators in the business. He extracted 26 million pounds for Michael Essien and 26 million euros for Diarra. Both players stated that they wanted to leave and he still got those fees. To accept anything less than 50 million pounds is an insult. There are only a handful of players who have a higher transfer value than Cesc Fabregas. I do not mind him leaving, but I do mind him leaving for less than he’s worth.

– If that doesn’t happen this summer, then it’ll happen next summer. Something inside me (and this 100% pure speculation) thinks that this may Wenger’s final season. That’s not to suggest the board will fire him. It’s also not to suggest that if he wins, he’ll come back. I just have a feeling that he wants to have his squad together to mount a challenge for the Premier League and the Champions League and that’s why he’s desperate to hold onto Cesc. Let me repeat that I’m just making a guess and that I hope he’ll stay for many more years. But if that was the case, it would signal his intention to go out with a bang.

– Either way, this whole Cesc saga has been a chore. What I know is this. If we don’t get proper value for Cesc, it’s bad for the club. If we sell him for the proper amount, we can replace Cesc (Ozil and Hazard come to mind, not on a one for one basis, but just talented players who are out there). If we keep him for another year, I know that Cesc will be as committed and will want to go to Barcelona with a Premier League medal in his wardrobe; that’ll have to be good enough for now.

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