Mar 032008

Barcelona could be such a great club. Hordes of attacking talent, some of the best players in the world, and a style of football that at best is breathtaking.

But off the pitch, the are the most egotistical and arrogant club around. Barely a day goes by when they, and the Spanish media that the can control, don’t tap up one world star or another. We all know how tiresome it was with Henry, and as soon as he left we knew Cesc was their next target.

After numerous comments in the press about how he ‘had a responsibility’ to return, they finally seemed to have grasped the point – he is Arsenal through and through. But instead of reacting maturely, they’ve sunk to the level of a kid who isn’t invited to a friend’s birthday party, and retaliates. When asked whether Fabregas would be welcomed back, technical secretary Begiristain had this to say:

“There is always a risk when you decide to leave Barcelona and the fact is that he cannot return”

Has he given any indication of wanting to return? He left Barca, remember, joining a club who would play him regularly from a very young age. He signed an eight year deal which handed power to his employers and became a true Gooner. But that doesn’t stop the bitterness:

“He, as was hoped, would now be in the first team. Bojan is an example. He had faith and did not go to England.”

The bizarre thing is, this is all said as if Cesc is now likely to regret ever leaving Barcelona, as if he doesn’t realise the huge strides he’s made at Arsenal. Who knows how stunted his growth would’ve been if he’d stayed in Spain? Would they have played him at such a tender age? Yes, Bojan is 17, but has made largely substitute appearances for them, and will probably be restricted to just that for the next couple of years. At Arsenal, Vieira was sold and Cesc found himself the fulcrum of the midfield in his teens. Can anyone doubt how profoundly that has affected his career, how much more responsible and mature he is now because of that?

For that matter, does anyone even think of Cesc as a young footballer anymore? He is, after all, younger than players such as Nani and Babel, two of the league’s ‘up and coming starlets’.

Fabregas is an intelligent man, and he will know just how much he has gained from being at Arsenal, from playing as regularly as he has. For Barcelona to criticise him now is churlish – he owes them nothing. His career is far more advanced now than it would’ve been had he competed with Barcelona’s crowded midfield.

And the notion that they wouldn’t accept him back is laughable. Of course they would. He’s walk into any team in the world.

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