Unsurprisingly, Barcelona’s £27 million offer for Cesc Fabregas was rejected. Keep in mind, this was £8.5 million less than last year’s 40 million Euros offer. This was Barcelona President Sandro Rosell’s take on Fabregas:
If last year we offered 40 million Euros, it is clear that this year his value is less. Since then there has been wear and tear and he is worth less. Guardiola knows the values of players and Cesc’s is less than 40 million Euros. Barcelona will offer less and, if they don’t accept, then he won’t come.
On top of this, Rosell is once again making noise about Barcelona’s finances, which he has not spoken of since he blamed all the financial problems of the club on Joan Laporta. (Not that it stopped Rosell from entering the race for Alexis Sanchez. “Bienvenidos a Cataluña a mi amigo chileno!”) There will apparently be one more offer before the negotiations inevitably fall apart.
Rosell (whom I am no fan of) is not exactly wrong. Fabregas is older (relatively speaking), and he was injured again this past season, which makes some kind of injury just about every season he’s played first team football at Arsenal. Although he is a star at Arsenal, for Barcelona he’s just insurance in case Xavi or Iniesta gets injured. Even on Spain Fabregas cannot break onto the first team. Thanks to free-spending Manchester City and Chelsea (and Liverpool for Andy Carroll), prices are super-inflated in the English game and now beyond. 40 million Euro is a hefty sum to pay for a bench warmer, and the memory of Zlatan Ibrahimovic still hovers.
On top of that, the presence of Fabregas might stunt the development of Thiago Alcântara or cause him to leave. When rumors first starting appearing about Thiago’s exit, they were quashed fairly quickly. First Thiago’s father Mazinho said no. Then when Thiago indicated he might leave, he backtracked really quickly (probably at the club’s behest.) While it is almost certain Bojan is going and pretty clear that Jeffren is following, the Thiago situation is very complicated, especially with a (better) younger brother also coming up through the youth academy ranks.
It seems fairly clear that Rosell does not particularly want Fabregas. The statements alone are a pretty clear indication, but on top of them you have (1) the announcement of a relatively low transfer budget; and (2) the heavy pursuit of a high profile player with a higher than necessary price tag, and an owner who is exaggerating the player’s worth and pitting two wealthy clubs against each other to increase the price (regardless of what the player wants.)
On top of that, Fabregas is the closest thing Arsenal has to an on-the-pitch leader. He’s not particularly good at it, but Arsenal really has no one else. He is something of a talisman. The only quality he lacks is being English (which is why Jack Wilshire is pimped so heavily.) Fabregas is one of the last vestiges from the era when Arsenal were actually a legitimate contender instead of a last-minute choker. The club is not going to let him go without getting major compensation in return, if for no other reason than the principle alone.
So why are Barcelona and Rosell even going through with the charade? I cannot say for certain, but I suspect there are four interrelated ones, which boils down to everyone else wants the transfer. First, the fans want him. They see him as the “one that got away.” Fabregas left La Masia before Barcelona could sign him to a contract precisely because he saw his future as a bench warmer to Xavi and Iniesta. Barcelona got nothing out of it because Fabregas was too young to sign a contract. Also, Arsenal continues to raid La Masia in this way, and the fans (and Rosell) are really pissed off about it. Second, Guardiola wants Fabregas, and he’s been pretty open about that. He want to groom Fabregas to take Xavi’s place. Third, the Barcelona squad want Fabregas back. His friends play at Barcelona, and they see him as seamlessly fitting into the system. Finally, Fabregas’s insincere neutrality belies a desire to go back to Barcelona. Barcelona his home and his club. Guardiola was his idol growing up. His friends play for Barcelona. Furthermore, he is a top player, and top players want to win trophies–something that will no longer happen at Arsenal, at least not as long as Wenger is in charge.
I think that Rosell is trying to look like he is making an attempt to get Fabregas. Sure it is clumsy and halfhearted, but he can go back and say, “at least I tried dammit!” For what it’s worth, unless and until Fabregas says the magic words, “I want to go,” (or firmly states that he wants to stay) then this ridiculous dance between Barcelona and Arsenal will not be resolved. Because Fabregas does not want to harm his popularity with the Arsenal fans (who I believe secretly wish he would go already), he is not forcing Arsenal’s hand. However, he constantly leaves the door open for Barcelona, because he really does want to go.
So one can perhaps sympathize with Rosell. He’s damned if he doesn’t get Cesc, but he’s damned if he does, because–at least according to the accountants he hired to make his predecessor look bad–Barcelona just doesn’t have that kind of money. At least not for Cesc Fabregas.