After three seasons at Barça it seems very likely that Cesc Fabregas will be returning to England this summer. Reports suggest that Fabregas’s agent Darren Dein has communicated to the club that the player would be willing to move back to England and that Barça would be prepared to accept an offer in the range of €36-40 million. Chelsea and Manchester City are said to be the most likely buyers.
Few players have caused as much disagreement among fans as Fabregas. Even before he was finally re-signed from Arsenal three years ago there were arguments over the need or not to bring him back to Camp Nou. His figures of 42 goals and 45 assists in a total of 151 appearances for Barça compare favourably to other midfielders though critics accuse him of failing to deliver in the big games.
I was amongst those who was against his signing in 2011 but since then I feel he has become an important member of the squad. In each of his three seasons he has started strongly and deservedly won his place in the team, and whether under Pep Guardiola, Tito Vilanova or Tata Martino his promising start to the season coincided with the team’s best football. He flourished with Guardiola’s 3-4-3 system, culminating with the spectacular 4-0 win over Santos in the Club World Cup Final in December 2011. Then the following season he played an important role during the record-breaking first half of the league season when Vilanova’s team took 55 points from a possible 57. Under Martino he also began well and even kept Andrés Iniesta out of the team for a while. However, in each season his contribution faded in the spring and it is difficult to remember an influential performance in any of the Champions League knock-out stage games.
If Fabregas leaves we may never know the real reason for his decision. It is possible that the club told him they were prepared to listen to offers in which case the player may prefer to jump before he is pushed. It is also likely that he feels unappreciated by the fans who unfairly picked him out for a whistling in the game against Athletic Club in April. It could simply be that he recognises that his talents are more suited to the more anarchic English game or maybe he just wants to escape the overbearing media pressure at Barça. Finally, of course, we can’t discount the player making a considerable financial gain from the move.
Whatever the case, the decision is surprising as Fabregas seemed so keen to succeed in Barcelona. From the club’s point of view there is obviously the need to sell in order to be able to buy and with Rafinha returning it may well be good business if the price is right. It seems likely that Alex Song will also leave this summer which would leave Busquets, Xavi, Sergi Roberto, Rafinha and Iniesta as midfielders. There is the possibility that Javier Mascherano could be used as cover for Busquets but the club will be looking to sign another midfielder with Koke, Ivan Rakitic, Toure Yaya, Javi Martinez and the Juventus pair, Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal, all mentioned in recent weeks.
Martinez is a player I’ve always liked and he has the added benefit of versatility, being able to play in defence or even as an emergency striker; the problem would be to get Bayern to sell and this probably makes him the least likely of the candidates. Toure would be highly popular with fans (while no doubt increasing debate on this blog :-) ) and despite his 31 years he showed last season that he is in tremendous form; however, if Barça are thinking long term then it seems likely we will go for a younger player. 22-year-old Koke has been brilliant for Atlético this season and would add much needed intensity to the midfield, the only question here is the reported price tag of €60 million which would leave less money to reinforce other positions. Pogba and Vidal would be equally expensive while the question of adapting to a new league makes them slightly more risky. Finally, there is Rakitic who has had an excellent season with Sevilla and for me fits the bill on all counts. At 26 he has a good few years in him and he could play in any of the three midfield positions. Last season he scored 15 goals and made 17 assists, and at 184 cm tall he may not be a giant but he will add a bit more than Fabregas (179 cm) in defending set-pieces. Also, his reported price of around €25 million would not break the kitty.
So what do you guys think? Are Barça right to let Cesc go? How much do you think he is worth? And who would you sign as a midfield reinforcement?