Julian Finney/Getty Images
Fee: £35 million
In 2012, Cesc Fabregas said in an interview with French magazine L’Equipe, “If Barca had not come in for me, I would have played my whole career at Arsenal. That was certain."
On the surface, that’s a lovely, consoling sentiment, which at least somewhat alleviates the bitterness felt by the average Arsenal fan in relation to this excruciating transfer saga. However in the mind of the cynic (pleased to meet you), such a statement invokes what I like to call, The Simile Game. In The Simile Game, one examines a seemingly innocuous statement, changes a couple of proper nouns and possibly a verb or two, looks at the resulting product, and laughs at how ridiculous the end product sounds. Allow me to demonstrate.
“If the Titanic hadn’t crashed and sunk, the whole journey would have been a raging success. That’s for certain.”
“If I hadn’t drunk that bottle of Russian Standard Vodka last night, I would still have my left kidney. That’s for certain.”
“If Charlie Sheen didn’t have a debilitating weakness for nose-candy, top-of-the-range Scotch, and Corvette-priced strippers, he would definitely still be polluting our airwaves on Two And a Half Men.”
Thus, the birthing of what I would call the Pointless Speculated Truism: a seemingly-encouraging statement which is rendered utterly pointless because, well, the Titanic did sink; you did black out and wake up without your left kidney; Charlie Sheen did have a weakness for strippers and Scotch, and Barca did come in for you, Cesc. I love you, you’re beautiful, now shuddup.
Arsenal fans have always been quick to forgive Cesc Fabregas for leaving The Emirates for the hallowed Catalan base of Camp Nou, and this post does an excellent job of highlighting why. Cesc was Catalan, and to Catalans that means something that we as Gunners fans couldn’t really comprehend.
There are no easy parallels. We can’t compare Cesc leaving Barca for Arsenal, making his name, and then returning to Barca to, say, Jack Wilshere leaving Arsenal in his youth, making his name, and then returning to the Gunners in his later years. We would speaking solely from a love-of-the-club perspective. In Spain, the divide between political Catalonia and political Spain is immense, and the enduring success of Barcelona Football Club is a personification of the autonomy that the Catalan state has claimed so consistently. For a Catalan player to make his name at a non-Catalan club is rare—for him to forsake his roots, unheard of.
Even so, it was hard. Fabregas was shunned by Barcelona at the age of 15, as the club could not offer him the game-time, and not working hard enough to keep him. Over the next eight years, Cesc became the nucleus of an Arsenal team whose slick, up-tempo game was fundamentally based around his skill set. For four years in a row between 2007 and 2011, Fabregas was one of the most complete passers in world football, creating more goalscoring chances in each of those years than any player in any of Europe’s top leagues.
He was made club captain at the tender age of 21, and was a shining affirmation of Arsene Wenger’s willingness to place his faith and trust in youth. He passed the ball with the languid grace of a clean-shaven Johnny Depp clad in silken boxer shorts and a top hat playing drums at a jazz club. He exploited space with the inherent precision of a savant mathematician reciting pi to three hundred digits. And he fought for Arsenal. He scrapped and he snarled and he shouted, he hugged Arsene, and he screamed when he scored.
And then this happened.
We made back his transfer 70 times over. But looking at Arsenal today, and at the entirely-dispersed Arsene Wenger project and all that jazz, you’d be forgiven for thinking in retrospect that Cesc was priceless.