Some weeks back I touched on the subject of Barcelona and their pursuit of Cesc Fabregas. At that time I said that unless they were prepared to pay his full market value then no deal would take place. Arsenal still hold a strong hand – Fabregas has 5 years left on his current deal and Arsenal are not in any kind of financial position that necessitates a sale unless the price really is right.
On the other hand Barcelona’s finances are an absolute shambles. Sandro Rosell has inherited a great team from his old friend Joan Laporta but a club with a mountainous debt. Rosell talks of ‘cash flow tensions’, there are those who would suggest having to seek an emergency loan of €150m to cover unpaid wages to players and staff a little more serious than that.
As well as that there are concerns that the TV deal with Mediapro (Spanish clubs are free to negotiate their own broadcast deals unlike the collective arrangement in the Premier League) is in trouble as the company is in receivership. It’s hard to imagine that a team as successful and pretty to watch as Barcelona would have trouble finding a new partner but it’s another complication.
There’s been some money in through the sales of Yaya Toure to Man City (£24m) and Dmytro Chygrynskiy – although the sale of the Ukrainian back to Shaktar Donetsk has actually cost Barcelona €10m having paid €25m for him just last summer. Yet even City’s millions, a considerable percentage of which is sure to have been up front due to the Abu-Dhabi owners ability to pay that way instead of installments, made little impact. Barcelona went begging to the banks for money to pay their players. That is a club in real financial difficulty.
So, how on earth can they expect to persuade Arsenal to sell their prize asset? If they’re borrowing money just to keep things ticking over there’s simply no way they can afford the kind of transfer fee if would take to get Arsenal to even consider the offer.
And there’s the other angle too – the player himself. It’s clear that Cesc Fabregas would like to go back to his former club. He sees his friends and former teammates playing beautiful football and winning trophies, at Arsenal the closest he’s come to a trophy since the FA Cup final in 2005 was the 2006 Champions League final in which defeat was inflicted by Barcelona. Since then they’ve never realistically challenged for the Premier League, just reached one domestic cup final and have been exposed in the last two seasons by Barcelona and Manchester United in the latter stages of the Champions League.
As well as that any young man who lives abroad for a time gets the itch to move home, to friends, family and familiar surroundings. You can be sure that Barcelona, from players to officials, chairmen and former chairmen, have filled his head with wondrous tales of how great life would be. And I’m sure it would. But are they being fair to Cesc Fabregas?
It’s hardly as if these financial issues have cropped up overnight. Before he took charge Rosell was urging caution about the situation and the club’s spending. Through making their interest so very public Barcelona sought to destabilise Fabregas at Arsenal. It’s a well-worn tactic. If they could drive a wedge between the player and the club and/or the fans then it makes their life easier and a deal at a lower price is inevitable.
Whatever his desires though, Cesc Fabregas has great respect for Arsenal, Arsene Wenger and most of all the Arsenal fans with whom he has a real connection. If he’d agitated and spoken in public about his desire to leave North London Barcelona would have been sitting pretty. He didn’t, despite pressure, I’m sure, from Barcelona to do just that. Arsenal’s response to the Catalans continued pursuit of the player was unequivocal and definitive.
Barcelona have known all along that they simply couldn’t pay what Arsenal would want yet they led Fabregas to believe they would do what it took to bring him back to the club. They used him, unsuccessfully, to try and drive down the price to one they could just about manage provided Arsenal agreed to a long-term installment deal.
The whole thing has backfired, they have little financial credibility and the idea that they can come up with a transfer fee big enough to persuade Arsenal to sell is ludicrous.
Nobody is foolish enough to rule out Cesc’s return to Barcelona at some stage but if the Catalans really have any interest in the player beyond that as a trophy signing they should call the whole thing off now. Apologise for leading him on, tell him a deal is beyond their means at the moment and let him concentrate on his career. He’s still just 23 with plenty of time on his side to go back one day.
Just not now.