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Simon Heptinstall On September - 23 - 2011

Barcelona Observer La Ligas Cesc Fabregas Factor

For some players, transfers happen out of the blue. In Mikel Arteta’s case that was literally true. He left behind the blue boys of Liverpool and moved down the road to the red of north London in a transfer that moved very quickly and to the surprise of many. Everton of course were not happy.  They didn’t want to sell but they were left with no choice once the player asked to leave. Other transfers take a far longer time to come about. When Cesc Fabregas arrived at Arsenal football club it was to far less media intensity than that which greeted his Gooner replacement Arteta. His departure back to Spain was a very different affair.

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Cesc was a boy of 16 when he left behind his childhood club of Barcelona to take on the challenge of playing in England. His first season at the club was an eventful one. He watched on (and played a minor role) as Arsenal won the league and went the season unbeaten. The following season he established himself in the first team and from then on he started to show the world just what a special player he is. He would go on to captain the club and be the key chess piece as Arsenal pushed for silverware each season. Silverware that never came. In August of 2011 he finally made his long awaited move back to Barcelona. To them he was more than just a signing; he was the final missing piece of the jigsaw. Not that Barcelona were missing much, their continued success, both athome and abroad, has been in stark contrast to that of Cesc’s former team who have failed to achieve any real success in the past six seasons. Instead he was the final member of a golden generation of players that Barcelona grew in their youth ranks. Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, Valdes, Pique, Messi, Busquets, Pedro and now finally Fabregas. Barcelona once again have the full set back at the club and it could be this season that they retain the Champions League and add themselves to the list of all time great teams that have  achieve that most unique of footballing honours.

On the pitch Fabregas has fitted into the team as if he had never left. His style of play is different to Xavi though they share similar attributes. And one extra element that Cesc has added to this Barcelona team is goals from midfield. Xavi and Iniesta play in front of Busquets and control the tempo of the team and the direction of the football. So much of their game is built on Xavi and Iniesta getting the ball and playing the right pass. Their stats are actually not always that impressive as far as assits and goals are concerned but they are far more important than just numbers and stats. They are the very heartbeat of the team. Their ability to see Messi or Alves or Villa and know when and how to play a pass is key. They don’t always make the final pass and so miss out on an assist. Instead they start the play and create the move from scratch. That is so often where their strengths lie.

Fabregas of course has this ability to run a midfield too (no poker face required) but he is often more direct than Iniesta and Xavi and his timing of runs into the box means that he is often the player getting in the box to score rather than the player who starts the move. His goal record already since moving to Barcelona has shown this and due to having players of the calibre of Alves, Messi, Iniseta and Xavi etc around him don’t be surprised if Cesc manages to add a lot more goals to the Barcelona midfield than seen in previous seasons. His style of play is in the style of Barcelona greats such as Xavi and Guardiola but his time in England has also seen him add a goal scoring dimension to his game. The likes of Gerrard and Lampard have been doing that for season after season in England and Cesc is able to marry the best of both worlds.

And as Xavi moves into the twilight of his career, so Cesc’s place in the team becomes more and more important. Right now is the honeymoon period. He is being coached by his boy hood hero Guardiola and playing in one the greatest teams ever to play football. But one day in the not too distant future Xavi and Puyol will finish playing and Guardiola will leave the club to manage elsewhere. That’s when the real new chapter in his life will begin. He will resume more responsibility on and off the pitch and will look to help Barcelona continue this golden era. He will of course still have Messi and Pique alongside him for many more years to come. But Valdes, Iniesta, Villa and Alves are a bit older and won’t have as long at the club as some of the younger ones. Their places could be taken by the likes of Thiago will be ready to make themselves regulars in the first team. And looking further ahead there is another possible transfer war with Arsenal over the services of Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin. Though with Toral having an English mother, his wish may be to stay in Britain and not move back to Spain.

For Fabregas right now life is golden. He has found life back in Spain as easy as we all thought he would and he will hope that his past hamstring injuries are now behind him for good as he looks to build on his bright start to life back at Barcelona. For Barcelona their long (and at times rather un-gentlemanly) chase for Fabregas’ signature has ended in success. They got the player they wanted and at a low valuation. In today’s market he is well over a £30m player and the fact he is still so young means that their search for a long term replacement to Xavi is over. For now Cesc can enjoy being part of one of the great teams of all time. In the future it will be up to the likes of him to help shape the Barcelona side of the years to come. His style of play may change as he gets older (as Paul Scholes’ did) but his importance will only keep growing.

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