MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10: Cesc Fabregas (L) of FC Barcelona duels fr the ball with Angel Di Maria of Real Madrid during the la Liga match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on December 10, 2011 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
The tale of Cesc Fabregas is a great example of the kind of story every player dreams of. Arriving at an already loaded super club, but still finding a way to work onto the first team and making an impact almost instantaneously, seamlessly meshing with its already established and celebrated star players. It's almost fairy tale-like.
In 2011 after nearly three years of talks and a bit of hard bargaining between Arsenal and Barcelona, the La Masia pupil completed the return journey to the Camp Nou with much anticipation to the tune of roughly $57 million. An investment that has been paying off for the Catalans since.
But what was most curious, at least in hindsight, was the timing of the move.
With the much-publicized transfer, Cesc left an Arsenal team that was finding it hard to hit its stride against Barcelona and hurdle them in their Champions League match-ups since Pep Guardiola took over. In retrospect, you could say that Cesc opted for greener pastures – no pun intended – but no matter how much the Gunners felt they may have wanted to hang onto their captain, there was honor in the decision to grant Fabregas his wishes to redone the Blaugranes shirt.
Now we come to a Real Madrid team that, much like that Cesc-led Arsenal squad, that has yet to find success against Barcelona (no disrespect to Arsenal). And yes, another Clasico went in the books with the Catalans again coming from behind to equalize, go ahead, and then convincingly demoralize Los Blancos in reverberating fashion. The back-to-back games resulted in the Madridistas’ hopes of a Mourinho reprisal being put on the back burner yet again. Now the second leg of the Copa del Rey Clasico is pretty much all but a formality for the Catalans.
Pound for pound, the Real Madrid squad has tons of potential and tremendous upside. Dislike them as individuals or the sum of its parts for any reason you want. We’ll absolutely agree and beat you to each punch line every time. Regardless of all the frowned upon antics and polarizing personalities on the team, they’re still a quality side. You might even be inclined to feel sorry for one or two players, feeling they might deserve better than the situation they find themselves in, collectively. They’re a magnificent team on paper, but they’ve become utterly mentally hobbled against a clearly superior Barcelona. They may be the richest club in the world, but their stocks drop every time they face the Catalans.
On the flipside, Barcelona isn’t a team without needs. We have had a short bench this season to begin with. Now, with Maxwell gone and Abidal resigned, but basically playing from game to game, Puyol not getting any younger, the thought might be that our defense needs some refurbishing. Perhaps. But our injuries and fitness also play factor in having that one bench player who could step in without a hitch. The situation in midfield is a bit more stable. We’ve been fortunate this season, more so than before to have players bounce back quicker, with the exception of losing Ibrahim Afellay and David Villa in the forward roles to long-term injury and recovery. However, we’ve been pleasantly blessed to have Isaac Cuenca and Thiago step in on occasion to ease the workload.
But imagine this for a moment – a player from this Real Madrid side suiting up in a Barcelona shirt – if only for a minute.
Yes, the thought is almost nothing short of sacrilege some circles. And considering the most recent drama, it's borderline revolting to think of. Imagine the uproar it would cause. Turncoat. Traitor. Figo. "Abomination" is hardly the word that would apply here. But this is exactly what has, in part, fueled this fierce rivalry. But it is also the past. And this scenario is purely hypothetical. The belief and philosophy in the development of players at La Masia is absolutely paramount. They are the soul of the team. It’s proven itself. Time tested with a stamp of championship approval. This is non-negotiable. That we know. But the likes of David Villa, Dani Alves, Samuel Eto’o (ex-Real Madrid, mind you), and Ronaldinho Gaucho weren’t products of the youth academy, they were added components rather, but all played vital roles in helping Barcelona win titles.
Now for the million dollar question: So then what if we could take one, or two players from this Real Madrid side to bolster our line-up? (They can’t beat this Barcelona team so they’re basically at our mercy. Whipping Boys, at best. So we are entitled and at liberty to discuss this matter, at least until they beat us.) Who would we take? Would the choice be based on those who’ve had experience playing alongside their Spanish compatriots? Which player would fit the best into the system, or add another dimension to what Guardiola has already realized to this point?
It’s obvious enough now that Mourinho isn’t utilizing them to the extent that Real Madrid had hoped for. Mourinho has spent and spent, and even tweaked the knobs right off the control panel of the Real Madrid machine. Even the players now find themselves beyond that window of opportunity to find their chemistry. Questions abound. Their fans are restless.
Maybe our genius, Pep Guardiola can fair better.
If anything, consider this notion just out of spite for our rivals.