"If a player is on the market it is because the club does
not want him."
So said Cesc Fabregas yesterday when asked about his impending
move from Arsenal to Barcelona.
"The club does not want him." Really?
It was a pretty low blow, thwacked into the breadbasket of a team
that have spent years repelling Barca's aggressive pursuit of Fabregas.
They did everything in their power to keep him happy, including ill-advisedly
appointing him as captain - a decision that inadvertently shifted the focus
from his exceptional play to his unexceptional leadership skills.
Now, after several summers of fighting, Arsenal have decided
they cannot resist any more, and will take £35 million for their star man.
Although he has been essentially loyal to Arsenal, Fabregas has
hardly made a secret of his desire to return to Catalonia.
So to reverse the situation and pretend that the move is the
product of Arsenal's will, rather than his and Barcelona's, is cynical in the
In mitigation, the quotes were not rehearsed - they came out of
an unseemly media scrum, which you can see here.
Given time to reflect, he might have chosen different words.
But still, he should know better than to aim such a slur at the
club and the fans who helped make him the player he is.
There's every chance he will say his words were twisted or taken
out of context and that he has nothing but respect for Arsenal.
Earlier this year, he angrily claimed he had been misquoted by magazine
Don Balon when he said that in Spain, Arsene Wenger would have been sacked for
his trophy drought.
Then Don Balon published the full interview transcript, showing
Fabregas said exactly what was in the quotes, leaving Arsenal to chunter plaintively
about copy approval - a separate issue entirely.
Incidentally, another contentious Fabregas comment from that
interview was echoed almost exactly by Wenger in a letter to a fan published
Fabregas told Don Balon: "For me it's a lack of a winning mentality, also of maturity in key
moments. We have plenty of quality but lack this bit of confidence."
Wenger wrote to the fan: "We could not
cope with ... the pressure in the important moments of the season. I felt they
lost confidence and you can see there has not been the same sharpness on the
mental front." Snap...
Fabregas should be leaving Arsenal with gratitude, not
bitterness. The only reason he is going back to Barcelona is because he left.
When Fabregas departed the Camp Nou in 2003, aged 16, Barca's
midfield featured Xavi, Iniesta, Davids, Cocu, Thiago Motta and Gerard.
A pretty crowded squad, and one which gave young Cesc no chance
of establishing himself in the first team, which he did after just a year at
Of course Fabregas has tremendous ability, and that comes in
part from his schooling as a kid at Barca's La Masia academy.
But would he have come as far, as fast, without Arsene Wenger's unshakeable
faith in the teenage Fabregas? I don't think so.
Arsenal have been portrayed in some circles as cradle-snatchers,
pinching young players from rival academies and profiting from the work of
Yet had he never moved to North London, Fabregas would not be
the player he is today.
In addition to the first-team football, a spell in England
improves players who already have the wonderful technical grounding afforded
them by Spanish youth academies.
Like Xabi Alonso, Fabregas has been made tougher, stronger and
quicker by his time in England. Fashionable as it may be to knock its harum
scarum style, playing in a Premier League midfield does wonders for a player's quick
decision-making - and Fabregas is one of the best.
There is nothing wrong with Fabregas leaving Arsenal
for Barcelona - if he wants to move clubs, fine.
Barca will get a great player, Arsenal will get a big wodge of
cash, and Fabregas will get to play for his favourite team. No problems.
But the least Fabregas can do is to be up front about his
motives, and treat Arsenal with respect instead of suggesting he has been forced
- Arsene Wenger