Cesc Fabregas can't seem to get out of the transfer rumor mill.
He was constantly linked with a return to Barcelona during his time at Arsenal. Every year, both during the season and throughout the madness of the summer transfer window, innumerable amounts of actual and virtual ink were spilled on speculation that Fabregas' attachment to his hometown club would finally prove strong enough to entice him to return.
After several years as one of the best midfielders in the Premier League, Arsenal's undisputed linchpin and the club's captain, the pressure proved too great and he decided that 2011 would be the year to finally make the move.
Objectively, at least, the timing of the move was a bit odd. Fabregas seemed to be a natural eventual replacement for Xavi, but he was 31 years old at the time and at the peak of his powers.
Consequently, Fabregas spent a relatively significant amount of time on the bench during his first couple of campaigns. Multiple Barca managers attempted to deploy him as variously a winger, an attacking midfielder, a central midfielder when one of the team's regulars was out and even a false nine.
Though Fabregas was somewhat effective in these roles due to his sheer quality and the often inferior skill of the opposition, it was always evident that he was being played out of position. But how can you keep a player as good as he is out of the lineup on a regular basis?
It was clear that he had returned home before his time, though not enough to dramatically affect his career.
Now, the press has rediscovered their urge to report on Fabregas. Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail, among others, has claimed that he is itching to return to the Emirates Stadium and become a crucial part of Arsenal's midfield again.
This is despite the fact that the Gunners are stacked in the precise position Fabregas loves to play.
One could certainly argue that Arsenal's horrendous injury record proves that the team cannot possibly have too much depth in any one position, since several players are liable to be out at the same time.'
This is a valid argument, and I'd agree with you. But think of the money Arsenal would have to shell out to buy back Fabregas, who would be a luxury player.
Barcelona bought him for £35 million, a relative bargain. They will certainly not sell Fabregas, who at 27 years old is in his prime, for any less than that.
So say the fee is £40 million, a conservative estimate. Arsenal would still need a striker, defensive midfielder, center back, right back and a backup goalkeeper. That is a ton of money that would have gone out the window as soon as Fabregas made his celebrated return to north London.
And we must consider, of course, how Fabregas feels at Barcelona. If he is content at his hometown club, he will not leave.
Given the depth at Barca, he should be ecstatic. Xavi is now 34 years old and is just beginning his decline. The great midfield maestro is nearing the end of his playing days and certainly will not be improving his quality or stamina.
So now the very man Fabregas was brought in to replace is on the verge of a precipitous decline and is entering the final years of his playing career. Why on earth would he return to Arsenal?
Perhaps Fabregas will eventually come back to the club that made him famous. But that will have to wait for several more years, until he firmly establishes himself as Xavi's successor at the middle of Barcelona's midfield and leaves his lasting mark on Barcelona.
Don't expect anything to happen this year.