As far as things that definitely won't happen go, The Sun's
back page claim that Cesc Fabregas could go on strike is quite near the top of
The Arsenal skipper is apparently being pressured by
Barcelona to no-show at pre-season training as he tries to force through a move
to the Camp Nou.
In partial fairness to The Sun, the Catalan press are full of
it too. Although they could check their story rather than just pinching it from
the papers - what kind of low-life would do that? Oh, right...
But it is quite simply not going to happen. Everybody knows
he wants to move, and Arsenal are willing to sell - why would he trash his
reputation with a pointless act of petulance?
And call ED naïve, but isn't it a little far-fetched to
think Barca have instructed Fabregas to strike?
Nobody hates Barca's smug, holier-than-thou, 'Mes que un club'
self-image more than ED, but they are not evil.
While their pursuit of him has been rather public, most of
the so-called 'tapping up' statements has merely consisted of players acting independently.
Were the club behind Pique and Puyol's post-World Cup ambush
with a Barca shirt? Did they tell Xavi and, more recently Sergio Busquets, to
talk about Cesc in the press?
Is there a grand conspiracy? Did UNICEF put them up to this?
No - it's just Barca players who want their mate to join
And if the move goes through, Barca will be getting (and
Arsenal losing) a really, REALLY good player.
Oddly, Fabregas has fallen a little out of fashion in
England. His much-criticised captaincy, his injury disrupted season and the
emergence of Samir Nasri have raised doubts whether he is the best midfielder
in his own team, let alone one of the finest in Europe.
But he is. OK, Cesc is not a captain - and he will not be at
Barca - but how can you not see his brilliance? Don't you people have eyes?
Andrei Arshavin might be nicknamed 'Meerkat' on account of
his funny Russian accent, but Fabregas plays like one.
His head is always up, scanning the field, tracking the
movement of his team-mates and opponents.
If the art of defending boils down to knowing where to
stand, the art of playing in midfield is about knowing where everyone else is
standing. Fabregas is a master at that. Throw in his technical excellence and
you have a hell of a player.
If Barca were most clubs, you would ask why they wanted
another diminutive midfielder - but they aren't they are the ones who have
shown you can win spectacularly with a team comprising little else but players
who can pass the ball extremely well, plus Leo 'Definitely Better Than Pele'
If they get Alexis Sanchez as well, everyone else might as
well just pack it in for the next five years.
Barcelona 2011/12 XI: Valdes; Dani Alves, Puyol, Pique,
Abidal; Busquets, Xavi, Fabregas; Iniesta, Sanchez, Messi.
Bench: Pinto, Milito, Mascherano, Afellay, Keita, Pedro,
Yes, that's Spain's all-time record goalscorer not getting
in the side. Ridiculous.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "We were only informed
over the weekend that the game could not now go ahead, and it was too late for
us to arrange for an alternative opponent of similar stature to step in. This
has been very annoying consequences, especially for our supporters." Vitesse
Arnhem's managing director Paul van der Kraan after Andre Villas-Boas cancelled
Chelsea's pre-season friendly with the Eredivisie side.
FOREIGN VIEW: Five teams in Europe have agreed to meet
Neymar's £40m release clause, according to Santos president Luis Alvaro de
The clubs are believed
to be Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester City and... Russian side
"Five European clubs have
offered to match the clause," he told ESPN Brasil.
"I cannot name them because there is an agreement between
Santos and the clubs, but they are the most important European clubs. They have
asked to speak to the player and obviously we've allowed them to."
COMING UP: Women's World Cup - Colombia v Sweden
at 14:00 UK time and USA v North Korea
at 17:15. And the Champions League kicks off today! The champions of Andorra,
San Marino and Malta
do battle in the first qualifying round.
- Cesc Fabregas