Date: 10th November 2007 at 12:28pm
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For those of you old enough to remember World Cup Italia 90 (a competition I remember fondly, yet one that gets slated as being shite…), you may remember some of the standout moments from the tournament. Like Cameroon beating Argentina, Toto Schillaci being the tournament’s leading scorer, the three tenors. For the English amongst us, there were Platt’s rise to prominence, Gazza’s tears, Lineker’s goals, another heroic penalty defeat to the Germans. For everyone, there was also the memory of Frank Rijkaard launching a mouthful of phlegm into the tightly-curled hair of German Striker Rudi Völler, where it probably remains to this day.

There is no relevance to this article, in that short tale recounted there, of course, I just thought I’d share it with you. You probably wish I hadn’t 🙂

Well, there’s a sort of relevance. I mentioned Frank Rijkaard. And of course, nowadays, he’s the Barcelona manager. And he’s been talking about Cesc Fabregas. Sky’s website reports Rijkaard saying:

It’s one player that stands out most in the football world because of his enormous talent. At his age what he is doing at Arsenal is something impressive.

It should be bared in mind that it has become the real leader Arsenal.

I do not go searching for any defects in people, but the truth is you do not encounter any [in Cesc].

Now it’s no secret that Barcelona are irked over having lost Cesc, despite not having given him the chance to show what he could do, which is what Arsene was prepared to do, which is why Cesc upped sticks to join Arsene’s Army. And it’s no secret that they want to get him back. And it’s also no secret that the way the biggest clubs in Spain conduct their transfer business is less than moral and hardly shining brightly in it’s honourable purity (some would say downright illegal, tapping up players, unsettling them, thus forcing the other club’s hand and forcing them to sell at a price way below the player’s market value. Alas, as of yet, UEFA haven’t shown they think this too, so Barcelona and Real Madrid continue to get away with this practice…).

So could this be another attempt by Barcelona to try and unsettle our young midfield gladiator? Most probably it could be. Of course, it could just be that Rijkaard was responding to a question posed by a Spanish Journalist. But we also know that the Spanish sports dailies are so tightly linked in with the big two in Spain that they conduct and do most of their dirty work for them, so that was the case, it could well be nicely choreographed anyway.

Anyway, it won’t work. Cesc knows that, whilst Barça is the club he supports, Arsenal is the club that is perfect for him to play his football at. A club where he has captured the hearts and minds of all the fans, and the club where, for all the fans, he epitomises the spirit and ideology of the new youthful Arsenal that Arsene has assembled.

Cesc, of course, was rested for the midweek game in Prague, and along with Alex Hleb, he travelled to Barcelona to watch them play in the Champions League, where much was made of this. Arsene has now spoken about it, making it clear he has no concerns about the situation (as reported by TEAMtalk),

Part of the reason for omitting them was just to get them out of football.

Sometimes it is better to leave a player out of the team completely rather than putting him on to bench so he gets a mental rest for a couple of days.

And also killing two birds with one stone by responding to speculation about the possibility of Cesc being sold, and in particular, to Barcelona. When a Spanish journo travelled to Arsenal’s training ground on Friday, TEAMtalk say that Arsene’s response to his questions about the possible availability of Cesc were dismissive, to say the least:

This is no story, Fabregas is under contract with us. If Barcelona want to buy any player under contract then I’ll give them my phone number.

But I think they have it because they just bought Thierry Henry.

No chance [on Arsene being open to an offer to Cesc].

So will they take the hint? Will they f**k. Will they continue to try and conduct their underhand operations through the press? Undoubtably. And will Cesc return to Barça one day? Quite possibly, but not for a number of years yet, and when he does, it will most probably be at a time when it is suited to and agreed upon by both Arsenal and Cesc, not when Barcelona come knocking with their evil cloak, top hat, and cane…