It has all kicked off today, hasn’t it?
We always knew this would be the summer of Cesc, or more pertinently, the summer of incessant transfer rumours surrounding our captain, irrespective of whether any truth lay within the articles. Barcelona’s presidential campaign ensured that, and our end to the season allowed the assembled hacks to play their ‘Arsenal in crisis’ trump card.
Today’s rumours began from a fairly innocuous source. Spanish paper AS carried a story in which Joan Laporta (who, remember, will not be Barcelona president much longer) claimed both Cesc and David Villa had expressed a desire to move to Barcelona, with Villa’s negotiations progressing more smoothly of the pair. The Guardian followed up by reporting the story as fact.
Since then, it has been rumour and counter rumour. Various media folk are suggesting that the story is well-sourced, but there is little concrete evidence to suggest that this is anything other than the overblowing of another Spanish media attempt to unsettle a player.
In short, most of us do not know the facts.
What has been incredibly frustrating to watch is the hysteria that has surrounded the story. The day has essentially followed the following pattern:
- Stage 1 – denial. The story written off as garbage.
- Stage 2 – hype. More and more people jumped on the bandwagon, giving the story far more credibility than it had previously – whether or not the story turns out to be true, this is the surefire way of legitimising a rumour.
- Stage 3 – panic. A slew of articles about Arsenal in meltdown, calls for Wenger’s head and the complete removal of the board.
- Stage 4 – abuse. Suddenly Cesc is disloyal, contemptuous of the fans, and not even that great a player. Worse still, his sister gets a torrent of disgusting abuse on Twitter.
- Stage 5 – claims of knowledge. Certain members of the written press actually have some knowledge, as do perhaps 5% of bloggers, but most are simply inventing a unique angle on the outcome. Yaya Toure is a makeweight. No, hang on, Ibrahimovic is coming the other way. Or maybe they’ll give us a keeper. Or Xavi.
I have to be honest – it has been truly awful to watch. Fans turning on each other, the management, the players – anyone they can turn their anger on. Hype has turned into hysteria, worry into panic, disappointment into the worst kind of abuse. I have had absolutely no desire to even attempt to add reason to the debate – those who have tried have been comprehensively drowned out by the wailing of the masses.
In the absence of concrete quotes (from reliable sources, at least) or a desire to invent a brand new angle (we’ll have Iniesta, Bojan and £60m please), I thought it wise instead to return to the facts.
Cesc will return to Barcelona at some point. We all know that, and that knowledge ensures that we cannot simply write off these sorts of rumours as complete garbage. One summer, they will be true.
That said, Cesc’s most recent quotes indicated that he intends to stay at Arsenal for a while yet. Of course, his mind could have been swayed by a number of factors – the end to our season, Barcelona’s superiority in the Champions League, or even something as fundamental as missing home.
If any of those reasons have driven him to request a transfer, then I fail to see why we can possibly hold it against him. A return to your hometown would be appealing to any man or woman in any profession, especially if that homecoming included a hefty payrise and the joining of perhaps the biggest name in your field of work (the analogy’s getting weak here, I know).
However, Arsenal are in better financial shape than they have been in years, so Barcelona cannot drive a hard bargain. Cesc will understand the economics of the situation – if Arsenal do not receive an excellent valuation, he won’t leave – it really is as simple as that. He has four years to run on his contract, and seems level headed enough to realise that if Barcelona under-offer, the transfer will not occur.
The key difference between this potential transfer and so many others is that Cesc’s value is not going to drop – he is young and miles away from the end of his current deal. Under normal circumstances, clubs are forced to cash in to avoid losing their star men for free, but we have no such worries.
If Cesc leaves, it will be a bitter blow, but we will recover as we have in the past. If he stays, he will continue to lead in his inspirational fashion.
Either way, I’ll support him from the rafters. Unlike so many raising their voices today, the man has acted with class throughout.