Fabregas may find the grass is not so green in Barcelona
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.
/ 4 hours ago
Liverpool start their Champions League campaign when they take on Ajax in Amsterdam on...
/ 5 hours ago
Chelsea begin their Champions League campaign when they take on Sevilla at Stamford Bridge...