Fabregas may find the grass is not so green in Barcelona

By on June 1, 2010

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By Danny Ohio.

The road from Arsenal to Barcelona is one well travelled but for the majority it has proven to be the wrong one. Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit, Thierry Henry and Aleksander Hleb have all packed their bags and exited north London for the glamour of Barcelona but which of them could honestly say that they enjoyed a happier time? Which of them will be remembered in the illustrious pages of Barcelona’s history books alongside the likes of Cruyff, Ronaldo, Guardiola and Ronaldinho? Which of them could say they were even successful?

If they were honest none of them would. Thierry Henry admittedly won a Champions League medal with the phenomenal team which swept Manchester United away in Rome last year. However he was more of a passenger than a key part of the team, indeed, many would argue Barcelona would have won the cup had Henry been there or not. All three enjoyed fine seasons at Arsenal, developing into world class players and, crucially, successful players. However, they were lured to the Nou Camp and seemed to hit a brick wall. Petit had little chance of getting into a midfield which included Guardiola, De la Pena, Cocu and Xavi. Overmars enjoyed more action than the Frenchman but only because Simao was the alternative.

Henry was in a similar situation to Petit, fighting for a place with Ronaldinho, Eto’o and an emerging Lionel Messi. Despite scoring a not-too shabby 20 goals in his first season, he was never an established part of the team, at least until Ronaldinho was shipped off to Milan the following season. Hleb, meanwhile, had all the attributes to succeed in Spain. Quick feet, excellent dribbling ability and an eye for a pass. Yet he seemd to curl into a ball whenever he set foot on the Nou Camp pitch. Cesc Fabregas could find himself in a similar situation.

Consider this. When Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has a fully fit midfield to choose, his first choice is Xavi, Iniesta and Xabi Alonso. When Fabregas is fit, he can’t dislodge two of the midfielders he’ll be competing with at Barca. And for coach Pep Guardiola, why would you fix something that ain’t broke? Iniesta and Xavi dovetail beautifully with the security of Yaya Toure or Sergi Busquets behind them. Neither Fabregas, Xavi nor Iniesta can play the holding midfield role leaving three top-class players vying for two places. Put simply, two into three won’t go. Some have suggested that Iniesta will be shifted into a more offensive role on the left flank currently occupied by Pedro. However Guardiola is a big fan of Pedro so his place in the team looks safe.

Some see him as Xavi’s long-term replacement but Xavi is only 30 and for a footballer, 30 isn’t what it was 15 years ago. What that means for young Cesc is that there is a very real chance that he will begin his Barca career on the substitutes bench next to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. At this stage of his development, Fabregas needs to play all the time. He is not the finished article by any means but with each year he has honed his raw talent – with a lot of help from Arsene Wenger – to become ann extremely polished and accomplished midfield player. To be on the bench, even one as special as Barcelona’s, is not what he needs. Sean Wright-Phillips is a case in point. He was flying at Manchester City and then moved to Chelsea and was about as close to getting in the team as the tea lady was. The result? A player who never developed into the one he should have been. We can only hope that the same doesn’t happen to Fabregas.

Hleb, Petit and Overmars have all said that they regret leaving Arsenal for the Nou Camp and Thierry Henry would admit that he missed his stage in north London. There is a very real chance that in five or six years time, Cesc Fabregas’ name will be added to this list.

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5 Comments

  1. Iceman

    June 1, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Totally agree. Hleb has stated that it was the biggest mistake of his career and would jump at the chance to return. Fabby is good, but the Barca squad is huge, hence the over large subs bench. If I were Cesc I would be thinking long and hard – not with my heart but my head. I hope he makes the correct decision as I genuinely admire his skill and think he has been fantastic for us.

  2. Samm

    June 1, 2010 at 11:02 am

    These players saw the mistakes of those that went before them and yet believed things would be different in their individual cases. Sadly, they all realized late when irreparable damage had been done. I accept that Fabregas has a better chance of succeeding considering his age but, like you observed, the bench at Nou camp can only stall his progress. I do hope he stays and become the Arsenal legend he’s cut out to be.

  3. Zhenyu

    June 1, 2010 at 11:09 am

    To be fair, just let those uninterested bunch of foreigners leave.. build a homegrown spine, they are pure and committed to the cause.. same goes to my country singapore by relying on foreigners to represent us..

  4. Terry

    June 3, 2010 at 11:34 am

    cesc is good enough to play in any team… but i think he would miss beeing the special one like he is at arsenal… he has pretty much got god status like henry, berghamp, veira, adams… i dont think he would get that kind of status with barcelona…

  5. Alex

    June 4, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    Agreed with everything that was stated in the article. However cesc seems desperate to win trophies and honestly has been loyal for many years under a team that is great for youth development but not one that seems to have the resources to compete with the big spenders. Every year Arsenal develop/buy a new young talent but never a world class superstar(s) needed to compete. So, for at least three years now he has been told to wait and wait and wait……but little has happened and now, like many Arsenal aupporters, are probably looking at what is happening at Man City and wondering can the compete long term with them too? Can he win trophies at Arsenal?

    Also, moving to Barca will be different for cesc having already been part of the youth setup for many years, so I do not think the move will phase him one bit, plus being a native will also help settling in and adapting quickly too, which Henry, petit et al, probably intially found difficult.
    So, in all the situation might be different for the return of the barca kid.

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