So… what’s new?
Seldom, if ever, is there a development in the world of Spanish football capable of stealing the front page from a Clásico, let alone one with a role in determining the first recipient of hardware in Spain this season that features goals from the likes of Mesut Özil, Xabi Alonso, Lionel Messi and an absolutely gorgeous strike from David Villa.
The end of the sports longest running (and most exhausting) transfer saga, however, is just that development. A drama cut from the same cloth as those of (depending on your side of the pond) Cristiano Ronaldo or Carmelo Anthony has drawn to a close, with news that Cesc Fàbregas, Arsenal’s captain and midfield general as well as an alumnus of La Masia, is returning to FC Barcelona for a fee of between £29.8 million and £35 million, depending on certain variables.
Eight years, 305 official appearances and 59 goals after heading off to London, Fàbregas is thrilled to be back in Catalunya. At his reintroduction press conference he was quick to thank Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, whom he referred to as "a second father," as well as all involved in orchestrating his homecoming, from FC Barcelona President Sandro Rosell, to Pep Guardiola, whom he said "has been very important to me." He went as far as to pledge "up to my last drop of sweat for Barça" and proclaimed that, despite the physical distance, he never stopped loving Barça.
In what was an otherwise standard press conference, Fàbregas did deliver one sound bite of interest, stating a need to reestablish his relationship with the club and a the deferential attitude he brings to the world’s top side:
"It’s not easy to have confidence again in someone who left the club at youth level…I'm ready to take on whatever role I’m given. I’ve chosen the harder path, but the most rewarding for me."
He went to state that his only goal at this early stage is "to improve a little what is already the best team in the world".
The move begs the obvious question of why another of Europe’s contenders- a certain blue-clad crew of Londoners comes to mind- did not aggressively attempt to trump Barcelona’s bid. Even at the maximum sale price, it’s difficult to view the acquisition of young, top-shelf talent at such a vital position as anything but a bargain.
Meanwhile, however, with the world’s top two midfield playmakers already in the fold, Barcelona’s summer splash has yielded little more than a world-class backup. Critics of the acquisition will contend that Barcelona’s millions would have been better spent shoring up the back line, rather creating an embarrassment of riches. As logical as it appears on the surface, this argument fails to take into account a pair of vital points.
Barcelona is an attack-minded club that employs a tried-and-true system, one that hinges on the presence of a certain type of player- the skilled midfield playmaker. Through the years, the club has exhibited an exceptional ability to identify, acquire and maximize the talent of such players. As much as any acquisition made by the club in recent years, FC Barcelona is simply staying true to the system responsible for so much glory and success.
At its best, Barcelona’s signature system is more than capable of compensating for the deficiencies of a less-than-elite defense. Rather than spending heavily in an attempt to shore up an area of relative weakness- one in which large expenditures have not paid particularly great dividends- the club has smartly committed to making sure that its strength remains just that, an area of strength. In acquiring Cesc Fàbregas, FC Barcelona is simply "restocking the cupboard" with a young, world class player that is familiar with the system (and will only become more so) and should be able to seamlessly perpetuate the club's style of play as Xavi begins to enter the twilight of his brilliant career.
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