Premier League Clubs Set to Scrap for Barcelona's Cesc Fabregas

Guillem Balague@@GuillemBalagueFeatured ColumnistMay 20, 2014

Andres Kudacki/AP Images

On 15 August 2011, in an emotionally charged day at the Camp Nou at FC Barcelona, Cesc Fabregas told the cheering crowd as he kissed the badge of his No. 4 shirt, "I have come home."

There wasn't a dry eye in the house. Kind of.

After one of the longest, most protracted transfer wrangles in living memory, even the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was moved to say, "This was not about money, it was about him going home."

The prodigal son had returned.

But football is a fickle mistress, and as the cheers have turned to jeers, the talented midfielder from the seaside town of Arenys de Mar near Barcelona is now clearly surplus to requirements.

What is most hurtful, perhaps, is not that the club is passing the message he is for sale, but rather that they haven't announced he isn't. Home may well be where the heart is, but hearts, as we all know, can be broken.

The facts are simple. Fabregas can be bought for €40 million. Anyone turning up with that figure can have him, even though his buy out clause is 200.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

So, in truth, the club is sending out the message that Fabregas is for sale. Barcelona won't fight any approaches, they welcome them.

What we can look forward to now is an unseemly scrap as a number of clubs, almost inevitably from the Premier League, battle to secure the services of the 27-year-old Spanish international.

The Christmas after he joined Barcelona, he revealed in an interview with Sky Sports his love for his former club.

"Apart from Arsenal and Barcelona, I don't see myself playing anywhere else," he said. "I will definitely be going back (to Arsenal) whenever I have time to watch games and to see the guys, and you never know in the future, why not?"

We'll see if he still stands by those words. My information is that Arsenal may think they have an emotional pull on the player, but the first option buy back option they have on him will not force him into anything. It is an option with a fixed sum indicated by contract, but Cesc can ignore it if he prefers to go to another club. Arsène Wenger has been recommended to bring him back by his assistants so it is up to the French manager to put an offer for Cesc. Louis Van Gaal has him as one of his priorities. 

As things stand, Manchester United, with a bulging treasure chest and a desire to invest in some of the world's best players to resurrect their fortunes, are probably favourites.

Manchester City would also presumably like him, but with the recent limitations placed on them by the Financial Fair Play inquiry, it's difficult to imagine them having the funds available to buy him. Which leaves Chelsea as the only other side likely to be looking to make a move for him.

Where he ends up will probably depend on a number of things, including what role his new club will allow him to play in their setup. One of the major problems he had at Barcelona was his inability to play as free a role as he wished, because frankly, the only player granted that particular luxury was his former La Masia compadre, one Leo Messi.

That said, with 55 appearances, 13 goals and 16 assists, he could hardly be accused of having a bad season, despite being barraged by the crowd during Barcelona's 2-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao.

It was perhaps then that both he and the club realised the time had come for him to look for a new home.