Early Doors

Cheaper than Andy Carroll

Early Doors

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It's nearly over.

After the longest transfer saga in football history,
Barcelona are about to get the player they want for the price they want.

A look through the Eurosport-Yahoo! archives suggests the
first serious mention of Fabregas returning to Barca was in 2007 - we have been
dealing with this nonsense for four years.

Despite the fact that Barcelona did not so much woo Fabregas
as jump on him and start dry-humping his leg, Arsenal failed to extract a
premium for their much-coveted captain.

The whole thing defies logic - the more publicly you state
your desire to sign a player, the more you pay for him, right?

Apparently not. Barca are shelling out just £27m, with
Fabregas himself chipping in a further £3m.

Imagine if any other club told a player: "We love you
and we really want to sign you, and we have the money to meet the asking price
- only we won't, and we need you to chip in to get a deal done."

And yet Fabregas has happily dipped into his own pocket to
secure his move.

The words that now haunt Arsenal are these - Andy Carroll.

How on earth did Newcastle secure a bigger fee for their
number nine than Arsenal have for one of the best players in the world?

ED knows it is seldom wise to compare transfer fees
directly.

Carroll's price was pushed up by the fact that it was
January 31, he is English, and he had little desire to leave Newcastle.

But come on. Whatever the mitigating circumstances, Andy
Carroll costing more than Cesc Fabregas is not a scenario that should ever
occur. Ever.

The idea that Liverpool paid for potential is undermined by
the fact Carroll is only 19 months younger than Fabregas.

The Spaniard may have more miles on the clock, but ask
yourself which sort of player is better equipped to withstand the ravages of
time - spry, sprightly midfielders or big, bulky strikers with a history of
injury problems?

It has become a bit fashionable to do Fabregas down, but ED
thinks he is an extraordinary footballer. His vision and passing range are
probably surpassed only by Xavi. And now Barca are going to have them both.

Ultimately, being the best team in the world gives Barcelona
licence to do pretty much whatever they want.

Any player, faced with a choice of Barca and another club,
would need all of milliseconds to make his selection. Who in their right mind
would refuse the chance to be part of possibly the best football team ever?

Barcelona knew Fabregas would continue agitating for a move
as long as it took, and that Arsene Wenger would eventually tire of having an
unsettled captain.

Barca certainly haven't won any friends with the way they
have pursued Fabregas, but they don't always do it like that.

Their pursuit of Alexis Sanchez was far less painful, but
their negotiating stance was ruthless and relied on the player's cast-iron
desire to go to the Camp Nou.

While Chelsea and Manchester City's offers spiralled over
£30m, Barca stuck to their guns at £22 plus clauses - and Sanchez's insistence
that he would only go to Catalonia meant Udinese eventually had to settle for
much less than they could have got.

So, what now?

Assuming Pep Guardiola keeps his midfield anchor man - and
he needs to given the attacking licence afforded to the full-backs - he will have
no fewer than 10 high-class options battling for five attacking positions.

How about a 'front five' of Xavi, Fabregas, Sanchez, Iniesta
and Messi?

With a reserve quintet of Keita, Thiago, Afellay, Pedro and Villa?

Yes, that's right. A bench featuring Spain's all-time record
goalscorer (Villa), another man who started and scored in the Champions League
final (Pedro), plus an established Dutch international (Afellay) and one of
Europe's most highly-rated young players (Thiago).

Every great club side tends to win (at least) three European
Cups in the space of six seasons.

Real Madrid did it in the 50s and at the turn of the
millennium. Ajax and Bayern Munich did it in the 70s. Liverpool did it, AC
Milan did it, and in May Barcelona did it.

The scary part is that, with the squad Guardiola is
assembling, Barca could rule European football for another 10 years.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The police seem to have managed to contain the things that have
been going on. But there's not much stuff that people can loot at a match so it
won't attract the kind of people that have been active in the last few days."
Bernie Ecclestone shows he has a real grasp of the rioting situation when
commenting about the threat to this weekend's Premier League games. Stick to
rescheduling the Bahrain GP, Bernie.

FOREIGN VIEW: Chelsea striker Fernando Torres
went off injured in Spain's 2-1 friendly defeat to Bari last night, and is a
doubt for the start of the Premier League season.

Although Torres initially appeared
to have an ankle problem, it was later confirmed he sustained a mild
concussion.

With any luck, the blow may
brainwash him into remembering he is Fernando Torres, not Jason Lee.

COMING UP: Live coverage of Sheffield
Wednesday v Blackpool
in the Carling Cup from 19:45.

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