Arsenal and Arsene Wenger look set to snub and turn their backs on their FC Barcelona-born prodigal son Cesc Fabregas and instead launch an audacious bid for AC Milan's Mario Balotelli. If truth be told, however, Le Prof would be better off avoiding both players.
Transfer speculation regarding Fabregas' future is rife following Barcelona's decision to leave him out of next season's kit launch team photo, according to a report by Marc Williams in The Independent.
Likewise, Balotelli's future at Milan is looking more and more uncertain after the Italian giants confirmed they need to cut their wage bill extensively. Balotelli, signed from Manchester City for £22 million just 18 months ago, is an asset that Milan feel they can move on for a considerable price.
The Daily Mirror's John Cross is reporting that Arsene Wenger is a long-time admirer of the troublesome 23-year-old and is likely to be interested in bringing the Italian international to the Emirates Stadium.
Of course, as far as Balotelli is concerned, there has been an awful lot of water under the bridge between 2009 and 2014, and it remains to be seen if Wenger is still interested in signing the striker.
The same can be said of Fabregas. When Wenger sold his former captain to the Catalan giants in 2011, he was letting one of the very best midfielders in the game go. Now, just three short years later, that's no longer true.
Chelsea and Arsenal are both in the hunt for the former Gunner, according to the Metro. Meanwhile, this piece from Jeremy Wilson in the Telegraph in 2011 claims that Arsenal have a first-option buy-back clause and 50 percent sell-on clause should Fabregas go to another club.
There is no doubting Fabregas' qualities as a player. The 27-year-old began his career with Barcelona before moving to Arsenal as a 16-year-old in 2003. He went on to play over 300 times for the Gunners and captained the side before returning to Barcelona.
Fabregas played an amazing 46 matches in his first full season as a pro at just 17. Ten years later, Cesc has played well over 500 times for club and country, and it would look as if Barca are ready to part with the Spanish international.
For many Arsenal fans, the thought of bringing Cesc back into the fold for a title hunt is intoxicating. Most have a rose-tinted view of their former star and seem to think that he will slip right back into the Arsenal team and the Premier League without missing a beat.
That just won't happen.
The biggest worry Wenger has concerning Fabregas is whether he is burned out or not. Barca, like most top clubs, do not sell their top players when they should be coming into their peak. Most players reach the zenith of their physical powers in their late 20s.
Fabregas, unlike most who make their breakthrough at 19 or 20, made his at 17.
Rooney is 28 and also made his debut at just 16. He has gone on to play over 600 times for club and country, and Scholes wonders whether Rooney has passed his peak.
The same question must be asked of Fabregas. Is it worth bringing Cesc back for upwards of £30 million? Especially when Wenger has the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain developing at such a rapid pace.
Arsenal legend Ray Parlour spoke to the Daily Mirror recently and feels that Wenger should forego the temptation to sign his favored son and go for a striker instead:
The problem with Fabregas is where do you put him in the team?
They have got very similar players to Fabregas – they have Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere – if you bring Fabregas back where do you fit him in?
He was great for the club, but forwards should be much more of a priority.
You look at Manchester City and Liverpool and they have much better forwards.
On the positive side, Fabregas' capture would introduce the interesting possibility of Arsenal playing a striker-less system.
Wenger has always stuck by the philosophy of developing his younger players. He should not shirk this belief, even if it means avoiding eye contact with one of his most beloved former players. According to Matt Law in The Telegraph, it would appear as if this is the case, and Wenger looks set to snub Fabregas and leave the path clear for Manchester City to sign the star.
Not signing Fabregas makes sense for three main reasons. The potential burnout and shortening of his career is a worry, but most importantly, his return would stunt the growth of the young players Wenger has nurtured over the last three years. The last reason is prioritization. The Gunners do not need to sign any more midfielders at present, especially when strikers are in dire need at the club.
That brings us nicely back to the bamboozling news that Wenger is considering a move for the time bomb that is Mario Balotelli. This report from the Metro gives a perfect example of the kind of weak character the Italian possesses.
In footballing terms, when on form, he is almost impossible to play against. When off form, he is almost impossible to play with. He offers no consistency and tends to shirk his duties when he is needed most.
Jose Mourinho told Pedro Pinto, formerly of CNN, a wonderful story of how he instructed Balotelli not to get involved in any physical tackles or confrontations while both were at Inter Milan. One minute after the half-time talk, Balotelli received a red card for a ridiculous challenge!
Frankly, there is little sense as to why Arsene Wenger would be interested in Balotelli. He offers far more problems than solutions.
As Arsenal look to build upon their FA Cup success and take the next step toward being real title challengers, the last thing Wenger should do is sign Balotelli, as it would be a guaranteed disaster.
Fabregas' capture is more understandable, as he is a top professional and offers nothing in the realms of controversy like Mario. There is a clear and distinct argument to be made for his signing.
However, it would be the wrong one to make. There was a time when Cesc was the right man at the right time. Sadly, that era has passed for Fab, and it will never, ever, exist for any team where Balotelli is concerned, least of all, Arsenal Football Club.
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