Spanish football expert Graham Hunter writes for the Paddy Power Blog on whether Cesc Fabregas is the missing link for Manchester United, or if not, who could be…
It was as far back as early June that some Manchester United players were briefing that the Premier League champions were going on an all-out offensive to buy Cesc Fabregas.
Here we are in mid July and United’s strategy remains shrouded in mystery… but it is clearly still something they believe may work.
On Monday there were off-the-record briefings from within Old Trafford that an offer had gone into the Camp Nou club that very morning. Thirty million of your Spanish Euros.
Vilanova admits bids in for Fabregas
All Monday afternoon, and then again on Tuesday, FC Barcelona (again frustratingly off the record) responded: “Offer? We’ve received NO offer.”
By Tuesday, however, there was an oblique acknowledgement from Tito Vilanova, Barcelona coach. He said:
It’s a positive thing if footballers are getting offers from other important clubs. I’m aware that Cesc has had other offers. But we’ve had a number of meetings on the subject, the most recent one when the season ended, and he emphasised to me that he’s committed to staying and winning things with this club.
I’m quite confident United have bid, and that given any encouragement, they’ll be willing to raise that sum too.
What would intrigue you, if you were a Manchester United fan, is the question: From where are they receiving encouragement?
Cesc has unfinished business at Barca
It’s only the ‘Little Englander’ who fails to understand that Fabregas has been a success at the club he supports. The only proviso being that there is even more for him to achieve, more room for him to impose himself on Barcelona’s playing style.
- In his best seven seasons at Arsenal Fabregas averaged 42 matches a season. It’s 48 at the Camp Nou.
- In his last three seasons at the Emirates his match average was 35. Injuries haunted him.
- He’s beating that by 13 games per season in a better, more competitive club where places are harder to come by.
- Appearance-wise, two of his top three seasons are at the Camp Nou. Ditto for goals.
Now Thiago has left, now Xavi’s trajectory needs to be more about the quality than the quantity of matches this is about to become the Fabregas era.
He has a new-born daughter and his family is nearby to support.
Since leaving Arsenal (two club trophies) he has won six pieces of silverware for Barça and increased his usefulness to Vicente Del Bosque by adding the role of striker to his repertoire.
Why would he leave for United?
Fabregas’ most recent pronouncement on the subject of him potentially leaving Barcelona used the adjective ‘absurd’ to describe the idea.
He did qualify the concept by admitting that if the Spanish champions were to entertain bids that might change his stance. Right now Barca say: no way.
Can they be believed?
The dilemma is that almost every factor which leads you to say: ‘Why would he leave?’ and ‘why would Barca sell?’ helps add to the sense of: ‘Why wouldn’t Manchester United see him as absolutely perfect for them?’
The options for Wayne Rooney
Goals, leadership, technique, relative youth, winning mentality, steel, experience – and a potential replacement should they decide to sell, or swap, Wayne Rooney.
Since taking over David Moyes has outlined the idea that Rooney stays. Behind the scenes both he, and United, have prepared a strategy.
If Rooney insists on leaving, the champions don’t want him returning on Premier League business, say with Chelsea, and damaging them, to their great harm and embarrassment.
IF he’s to leave, it’s best that it should be to PSG, Real Madrid, Monaco or … Barcelona.
Rooney has operated as lead striker, left winger, second striker and midfielder at United – it’s arguable that Cesc not only replicates some of the very best of that but also has an in-built rapport with Robin van Persie.
Drawing conclusions from the solidity which Moyes used as a foundation at Everton perhaps he, and United, see the Catalan as the No10 behind Van Persie.
Leading scorer last season, what MIGHT he achieve with the still greater assist giving talents of Fabregas?
Now the question is: how?
- Offer Barcelona Rooney? Offer Barcelona Vidic?
- Up their bid dramatically?
And why, to return to the key point, are United so convinced that they are not wasting their time and that it was an acceptable risk to allow a move for Thiago, which was well advanced, to slip through their hands?
Someone isn’t showing all their cards.
If, as seems feasible right now, United don’t manage to prise the talented Catalan away from his club then where will Moyes strengthen?
Here’s what United really need…
Beyond Leighton Baines one possibility, ironic given how recently the powerful and tremendously talented Paul Pogba jumped ship, is his France U20 team mate Geoffrey Kondogbia.
Currently imitating Patrick Vieira in Sevilla’s midfield, Kondogbia can play centre back or left back, only cost the Andalusians three million euro a year ago and is well, well within United’s budget.
Perhaps Fabregas is too. But is he really ready to desert the club he fought so hard to re-join, has conquered the world with, but with whom he still yearns to win the Champions League?
Place your bets.
- Will Manchester United experience the joy of Cesc? Get the latest odds here from Paddy Power > mobile | desktop
Graham Hunter is the author of the award-winning book, Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World. He is a regular contributor to the Paddy Power Blog on football and an all-round good guy. Follow him on Twitter here
Dive into Hunter’s archives on the Paddy Power Blog here