Fabregas and Messi
When the Cesc Fabregas transfer saga came to an end this August, FC Barcelona's fans were ecstatic and apprehensive in equal measure. Sure, Fabregas was a great player, and a very vocal press campaign would finally end. But where would he fit? Whom would he displace in the starting lineup? Was he going to be an expensive benchwarmer? Is Pep Guardiola losing it? Why insist on another world-class midfielder when there are already so many quality players in midfield?
These questions have been answered. Fabregas has become a major hit at Barcelona. He has vindicated the club management's almost embarrassing insistence to sign him with a series of performances that have been no less than brilliant. Not only that, he has also proven to be highly versatile and has raised the general morale of the squad.
Fabregas started his first-team career for Barcelona in the last 10 minutes of the Super Copa final's second leg against Real Madrid. In those 10 minutes, he started the move that led to Barcelona's winning goal.
He followed up this cameo with another against Porto in the European Super Cup final, where he scored Barcelona's second goal with an elegant goal into the top corner. His double of cameos was followed by four goals in four league appearances. That is also a record for a new midfield player at Barcelona. Not a bad way to endear oneself to the club's fans.
Goals aside, what really makes the prospect of Fabregas at the club even more exciting is his almost telepathic connection with Lionel Messi. The two former teammates from La Masia seem to thrive in the same starting 11. Their link-up play is at a stratospheric level, with each feeding the other with brilliant assists. Watching the two pass a defense to pieces is the highest form of entertainment a fan can hope for.
Tactically as well, Fabregas has fit in perfectly. When Pep Guardiola did not buy a central defender in the transfer window, many eyebrows were raised at his apparent inability to spot a weakness in the side. However, his signing of Fabregas actually brings a totally different tactical dimension to this Barcelona side. The 3-4-3 of Michels and then Johan Cruyff is back at Barcelona. It was exhibited twice in full flow, against Villarreal and Atletico Madrid. In both games, Barcelona ran out 5-0 winners, with Fabregas playing a major role.
In this 3-4-3 system, Fabregas played as a "false nine," the role that Messi had played to great effect in the previous season. He was not restricted to one position, as is traditional of most football players. Instead, he was given free reign to move around, drop deep and even go up front to try his hand at goal, and he played this role brilliantly.
Xavi recently said that Fabregas' arrival would not phase him out but allow him more rest. When Andres Iniesta recovers from his early-season injury, we will see this rotation in action. With four quality midfielders competing for two or three starting berths, the forced and continuous game time that Xavi had to endure at his advancing age will no longer be necessary. Guardiola can afford to rest his maestro more often.
The biggest concern in the Fabregas deal was the potential for it being very expensive for the club in a delicate financial period. This concern was unfounded—the Fabregas deal is significantly cheaper than many other transfers that took place this summer. Sergio Aguero, Javier Pastore and Radamel Falcao were just a few players who were bought and sold for far higher amounts. Here, the shrewd and calculating financial mind of club president Sandro Rosell was clearly at work.
Thus, the Cesc Fabregas transfer deal has been full of positives for Barcelona. He has slotted into the team seamlessly and has already started paying back his transfer fee with some excellent performances. He already looks like he has been playing in this first-team squad for years.