This is not exactly breaking news, but Mr. Wenger is reportedly planning to steal another Barcelona youth product in January: Sergi Samper, a 15 year old hailed by some as the "new Xavi."
Now, we all know that Arsenal's youth system doesn't produce many quality players, but this conduct is still inexcusable, especially after all of Wenger's whining about Barcelona's approach in the whole Fabregas saga. Tapping up a 15-year-old boy is a whole new low, even for Mr. Wenger.
The problem here is not really whether the infamous Frenchman will get his man (well, not really man) or not; that's really quite irrelevant. If the hype around Sergi were true and he was really that good, Barcelona would have taken precautions.
Given Mr. Wenger's usually bad eye for talent (after all, he once said that Theo Walcott of all players was more talented than Messi), it's almost a guarantee that Sergi Samper isn't as good as the media make him out to be. The problem here is Wenger's hypocrisy; for all his claims of righteousness and moral superiority, he is unsettling and trying to steal a Barcelona youth product for the third time in the past decade.
The tragic story of Cesc Fabregas and Fran Merida
In 2002, three players shined in Barcelona's youth team: Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Piqué.
Mr. Wenger stole the least brilliant out of the three: Cesc Fabregas. Lionel Messi is the best player in the world and many believe he might become one of the best players ever, and Barcelona took every precaution in order to keep him. Gerard Piqué has won two Champions Leagues (one with Manchester United, one with Barcelona), was a starter on Spain's World Cup-winning squad and is on his way to become Beckenbauer's heir.
Cesc Fabregas, on the other hand, has yet to win a major trophy at the club level and was a mere benchwarmer during Spain's international success.
Fabregas chose the (apparently) easy way but it couldn't have gone worse; his teammates at Barcelona have won everything there is to win in world football, while he is stuck in a team who has not won a trophy for five seasons (and counting).
Luckily for Fabregas, Barcelona have shown interest in re-signing their youth product; Xavi isn't getting any younger and he could certainly use some rest against the minnows. Aware of Barcelona's interest, Cesc Fabregas asked Mr. Wenger to let him leave this summer (as confirmed by his teammate Vermaelen), but the Frenchman refused his plea.
Another season of failure for the Gunners (which seems likely) and Fabregas might very well force his leave. Barcelona have won eight trophies in the past 18 months and are once again top contenders in the league and the Champions League. Guardiola's Dream Team is widely recognized is one of the strongest squads in club football history (it was the first team ever to win the sextuple) and Cesc obviously wants to be a part of that and finally add some trophies to his curriculum.
In 2007, Mr. Wenger once again tried to take advantage of the Spanish laws (no player under 16 can sign a professional contract) to get...Fran Merida. This time, Barcelona, obviously angry with Arsenal's shameful conduct, won a civil court ruling against the player and Arsenal had to compensate the Spanish giants about £3,2 million.
Fran Merida ended up being a total flop. Despite all the promises of first team football, the Spaniard only had six appearances for the Gunners and was eventually sent to Atletico Madrid last summer. Even in Atletico Madrid, he has been having trouble to break into the starting 11. This time, signing Barcelona's sloppy seconds backfired for Mr. Wenger.
Three years later, Mr. Wenger is up to his usual tricks again, tapping up Sergi Samper and tempting him with promises of first team football. Hopefully, Samper will have learnt from the mistakes of his countrymen and will stay put.
He might not be the star that the Spanish media makes him out to be, but he certainly has a chance to become a great player if he learns from the best: Xavi and Iniesta. Or he can move to Arsenal, like Cesc, and watch as his Barcelona teammates collect major trophies. A tough choice for a 15 year old, but hopefully he'll make the right one.
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