Manchester United have reportedly opened negotiations with Barcelona for the transfer of Cesc Fabregas. According to ESPN, David Moyes is ready to make the Spanish midfielder his first acquisition in a summer of change at Old Trafford.
Does this deal make sense for both Manchester United and Barcelona? Before analysing exactly that, run to your kitchen and grab a pinch of salt.
Media speculation has long linked Fabregas with a move away from the Camp Nou. His inability to maintain a regular starting place and failure to make an impact in his preferred midfield role has repeatedly forced the mainstream press to suggest his future lies away from Catalonia.
Fabregas has always maintained he wants to end his career with the La Liga champions, but after a lack of opportunities during the 2012-13 campaign, the former Arsenal skipper is once again being touted for a sensational return to the Premier League.
The 26-year-old has made 39 appearances in all competitions across the last year, many of which placed him away from the centre of midfield. Although effective in the "False 9" role for Spain, a certain Lionel Messi continues to deliver in a similar position for Barcelona.
Similarly, the consistent performances of Xavi also stop Fabregas from gaining momentum in the heart of Tito Vilanova's side. Although a return to Arsenal has been mentioned, recent indications suggest David Moyes is ready to spend big on the World Cup-winning midfielder.
Manchester United's midfield is undoubtedly going to change over the summer. With the retirement of Paul Scholes and players such as Anderson rumoured to be leaving, the incoming Scotsman has a real opportunity to stamp his own philosophy into United's engine room.
Michael Carrick needs a combative partner. His grace on the ball played a huge role in Manchester United's run to Premier League success during the 2012-13 campaign, but he needs a physical specimen to shoulder some of his defensive responsibility.
Everton's Marouane Fellaini and PSV Eindhoven's Kevin Strootman are two candidates outlined for this role. Both offer natural physicality and the ability to break down possession in key areas. They are versatile in different ways and can both fit into a number of roles within the team.
Fellaini's working relationship with Moyes would be a major bonus, while Strootman's experience of playing against elite clubs should see him fit straight into the side.
These signings must be top priority. Despite Fabregas being the bigger global name, his arrival should not become a matter of great importance until United have secured their defensive destroyer. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly where Fabregas would fit into the Old Trafford setup, even if Wayne Rooney moves on.
If the Englishman packs his bags, Moyes must utilise Shinji Kagawa in his favoured No.10 role. The Japanese superstar struggled during his first season with the Red Devils, and like Fabregas, was forced to play out of position. Imagining Rooney departs, it would be immensely harsh on the former Dortmund man if Fabregas arrived and took priority behind Robin van Persie.
Or would it? David Moyes rarely builds his team on traditional wingers and prefers to utilise versatile midfield diamonds. With Rooney gone, Kagawa could start on the left and Fabregas gets his role behind former teammate Van Persie. The interchanging of Kagawa and Fabregas would be akin to Steven Pienaar and Fellaini's roles at Everton, a lineup that worked extremely well for Moyes.
In order for this to take place, plenty of movement needs to be made in the transfer market. If United are to relinquish the width of natural wingers such as Nani and Antonio Valencia, a move for Fabregas would make absolute sense.
His intelligence when working between the midfield and forward lines certainly outweighs his ability to dribble beyond people, but this could work alongside Kagawa and Van Persie's willingness to drop. Even so, without Rooney's work ethic and physical presence behind the Dutchman, Moyes would certainly have to sign a defensive midfielder in order to counterbalance Fabregas in his preferred position.
Right now, this transfer is a long way off and only makes sense if Moyes is about to change United's entire shape. Unless Fabregas is willing to play a traditional midfield role away from his boyhood club—or Manchester United decide Rooney's exit is for the best—Moyes has far more pressing concerns to address before landing the luxury midfielder.
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All statistics in this article are courtesy of Whoscored.