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LaLigaWeekly On August - 8 - 2010

Cesc Fabregas makes up his mind

As you have probably heard, Cesc Fabregas has all but torched the idea of signing for Barcelona at least for this year, by publicly stating his fealty to Arsenal FC. Its a pyrrhic victory for the Gunners as few believe that in the long run, the London club can hold a player like Cesc if he truly wants to leave. Barcelona were not willing to budge on their 40 million euro offer to Arsenal (hes actually worth in upwards of 60 million according to the University of Navarres annual media value list) and Cesc didnt want to hand in a formal transfer request. These days a player risks tarnishing his own media reputation by alienating his base. This is as important if not more than the on-the-field reputation. In fact, transferring a media darling like Cristiano, Cesc, or Kaka as we have seen, is on the level of mighty corporations signing deals with other large media conglomerates. These are extremely sensitive negotiations that have as much to do with shoe deals, soda commercials, and marketing campaigns and may be too difficult to undertake in the span of one transfer window. Nonetheless, I am sure we have not heard the last of this saga. Look for it to continue around this time next Summer, if not in January.

As for who should be the replacement now that Cesc has reneged on his commitment, look to Pep Guardiola. He says he can fill the need from within, as Jonathan Dos Santos is ready for his closeup, but lets speculate. Who should they count on? Here are some of the crazy and not so crazy suggestions.

  • Alexander Hleb: the first option is one that is already on the clubs payroll despite the fact that he spent last season on-loan in Germany. Hes a handy player, with some decent ball-skills, but much like Shunsuke Nakamura when he left Celtic for Spain last year, if youre a play-maker in Spain you either need quickness, either with your feet like Messi or Iniesta or quick-thinking like Xavi or even Espanyols Ivan de la Peña in his prime. Hleb has nether. Look for him on loan again this year.
  • Mikel Arteta: if you cant get one former La Masia trainee, try his slightly older stand-in? Arteta is a fine player for Everton, but again, if he wasnt ready for Spain at the age of 20 and signed in Scotland for that matter, will he be ready for the return trip to Spain? Im highly skeptical that Arteta would forgo his big-fish/little pond place on the blue-half of Liverpool to essentially be a back-up for Xavi and spell Sergi Busquets in places as the Daily Mail in England is suggesting. Do they have any idea what position Busquets plays? Hes a holding midfielder. Arteta is not. Hell stay in England. If Everton cant afford his wages, he has plenty of suitors amongst the prawn-and-sandwich crowds. While writing this, Arteta re-upped with Everton so thats out of the question as well.
  • Mesut Ozil: as talented as he is playing for Werder Bremen, where he is imminently suited for the playmakers role in an offense tailored for players like he and Diego, I am still not sold on his ability to both make the jump to Spain and also fit in with a very particular role in that Barça offense. Its not something one automatically learns how to do. Hell also have less space to work with and there will be fewer balls going straight through him. I think hed be less effective at Barcelona. Real Madrid, maybe?
  • Keisuke Honda: if they must shop outside of the country, Id say the Japanese International is the best of the bunch. He really impressed me at the World Cup and would give them a powerful, long-range replacement in that midfield if they didnt already have their hearts set on Cesc. 

Ultimately, Id probably dispense with all of them and go with Javi Martinez from Athletic Bilbao. Hes grown up in the Spanish game so there wouldnt be as great an adjustment. Hed give them a real presence in the midfield, who can both partner Busquets and spell him if needed, plus he can join in on the attack like Yaya Toure did, and he wouldnt take the slot that Cesc would require if he did come next year. Other than that, the safest bet is to just promote from within. Dos Santos, Thiago Alcantara, Oriol Romeu, or any number of talented, young Barça midfielders might have more metal to fight for a place in a crowded Barça midfield than either Cesc or Fran Merida did when they left for England from La Masia years ago.

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