In 2010 Spain were in South Africa on a mission to win their first World Cup. Amongst their ranks was Cesc Fabregas. The Catalan midfielder had been at Arsenal since 2003 and had developed into a fantastic player. Arsenal’s behaviour in his capture had always left a bad taste in Barcelona’s mouth and he never strayed too far from their thoughts.
As time passed he not only featured on Los Cules’ radar but also on Real Madrid’s too, with one President singling him out as a potential future signing. Yet Barca were seen as the ones in the driving seat and while most think the whole circus kicked off in 2010, the wheels were put in motion for Cesc’s homecoming a year earlier.
‘He is a football player with Barca DNA’ said club legend Xavi Hernandez in an interview with Mundo Deportivo. Other players and employees used the phrase coined by Xavi so much that it has since become the butt of jokes. President Joan Laporta came out and spoke about the possibility of bringing the Canterano home and caused a strong rebuke from Arsenal.
During the World Cup there were plenty of questions asked about a move and it seemed that it would happen but Arsenal dug in over the public courtship of their player. With Cesc not speaking publicly about a move, one newspaper actually questioned whether the player could be suffering from Stockholm syndrome.
When Spain returned to Madrid with the World Cup, Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique surprised Cesc and pulled a Barca shirt over him. It seemed that it was the final straw but more and more comments were made and the Gunners dug their heels in and decided that there was no way a transfer was going to happen, at least that summer anyway.
A year later the move finally went through. It was seen as Barca taking steps to ensure their future. With Thiago Alcantara and now Cesc they had suitable successors for Xavi and Andres Iniesta, or so it would seem.
The Barca players couldn’t hide their excitement, going onto Twitter to celebrate the return of their lost son. The club were also declaring it a victory as they signed the player for figure in the region of €35m, when Arsenal had said they wouldn’t accept less than €40m.
Arsenal were also claiming a victory, saying that they had included a first refusal clause in the deal and would also get a percentage of any fee should he be sold. Arsenal fans were furious as they saw no way the player would ever leave Barca or be sold after the long fight. How wrong they would be. Three years later and he is on the move.
“But despite glowing starts to each campaign, Cesc’s contributions to the cause generally decreased as each season drew to a close,” read a statement on Barca’s website that was published yesterday, when Cesc’s transfer to Chelsea was announced. It has since been edited. It was the perfect summary of the midfielder’s three years at the club.
Despite 42 goals in 151 games, one being Barca’s 5500th League goal, and winning six trophies, it never worked out. He was popular amongst all his Coaches and played regularly but his displays were not seen as up to par, especially by the fans who had taken to booing him in his second season.
After a great start to his Barca career, things turned sour but not only for him. Pep Guardiola left the club, Tito Vilanova took over but his illnesses overshadowed his achievements and Tata Martino never quite fit. Barca won the League under Tito and in spectacular fashion but Cesc was under pressure as his performances were not to the standard expected by the club’s fans.
Although he was heavily linked to Manchester United he vowed to stay and prove his worth and it looked like he had done, but as the club statement said, a bright start was followed by a traditional slump.
Arsenal had first offer and refused, the player stressing that point on his Facebook page. He wanted to return to England and so Chelsea stepped in and signed the former Emirates idol.
Four years ago he was pursued publicly by Barca and seen as the future of the club. Now he is a castaway, another who couldn’t quite make it. It seems that his ‘Barca DNA’ wasn’t that strong after all.