CESC FABREGAS, you are magnificent. The way the 23-year-old tore Braga apart at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night was little short of Messi... or Maradona.
He scored two and made two in a near-record 6-0 win, thrilling the crowd of 59,000 and millions around the world as the Champions League whirred back in to action this week.
But how gullible do you think Arsenal fans are, Francesc Fàbregas i Sole? After the game, sweat dripping from that talented brow, he said: “I have always felt I belong here. I am happy at Arsenal.”
Tell that to the shirt sellers in Barcelona, where the letters F-A-B are already in great demand at the Nou Camp souvenir shop.
Every Gooner knows what happens at the end of the season. The star goes home. Cesc, born in Villasar-de-Mar, watched his first game at the Nou Camp aged six months. He was barely out of nappies when the Barcelona Academy snapped him up.
Incredibly, like Nicolas Anelka and Mathieu Flamini, Emmanuel Frimpong, and so many others, he was lured away on a cheap flight to London as a 16-year-old by the ever-persuasive Arsene Wenger in 2004. And Cesc appeared to love it.
For six years, he has thrilled Gooners and made Catalunians envious. His talents have lifted north London and though Arsenal have gone trophy-less since just after he broke through to the first team (he played in the triumphant 2005 FA Cup side), he is already a modern master, right up there with Charlie George, Dennis Bergkamp, and Thierry Henry.
Wenger himself admitted after his stunning display against Braga: “You don’t get many players like him. He is one of the biggest in the game.”
But he knows as well as any of us that Fabregas, pictured “accidentally” in the stripey strip of Barca after Spain’s World Cup win on July 11, will be off to pastures Nou next summer.
Joan Laport and his not-so-well-off board might have snatched him last summer if they’d had the money. But they know his blood runs the blue and red of Barca rather than the red-and-white of Arsenal.
On May 5, when the transfer row was at its peak, he said: “When you see that things are going so well, I think I would like to go to Barcelona. Then if they want me or not is another thing. It’s what I want and what I would like.”
And then there was this from Barcelona’s sporting director, Txiki Begiristain on May 18: “It’s great news that he wants to come here and I think that one day Cesc will have to come to Barca.”
And on July 30, after new president Sandro Rossell had failed with a £30 million bid, Barcelona’s World Cup-winning centre-back Carles Puyol announced: “Cesc is having to stay at a club where he no longer wants to be for another year. I wonder how intelligent it is keeping a player who doesn’t want to be there.”
Says it all really. Having spent six weeks with Fabregas in South Africa, Puyol would know a little bit about how he thinks.
A long meeting with Wenger followed when Barca’s interest switched to David Villa and there was Cesc on Wednesday night insisting: “I am happy at Arsenal.”
The unbeaten Gunners travel to Sunderland on Saturday. Steve Bruce will have watched his performance on Wednesday and will have worked out a few tactics to cope with the Catalunian’s prodigious talents.
Let’s see, when the boots are flying, how the Arsenal captain copes at the Stadium of Light. And then let’s hear what he has to say.
PS: Cesc on young Jack Wilshere: "Yes, he's exactly like me. In fact me might be better than me at that age." Wilshere when told of those comment: "Erm, I dunno about that!"
Who the hell is Neal Collins? See www.nealcollins.co.uk.