Date: 21st May 2010 at 9:02am
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It`s unwise to make too many presumptions about what the final outcome of the Cesc transfer story might be as almost anything still seems possible but it does seem a situation that doesn`t suit either club at present. In some ways Cesc`s ‘come-and-get-me` invitation seems to have caught Barcelona wrong footed. Despite the Presidential election chest thumping about bringing him home I wonder if they really imagined that a transfer this summer was on the cards? They don`t seem at all prepared for it.

Hill-Wood revealed after the Barcelona game at the Emirates that the Barca directors had indicated that they wouldn`t be bidding for Cesc this summer. This was subsequently denied by their Sporting Director, Cheeky Buggerystain (as Niko has now indelibly anointed him) perhaps realising that it might be going ‘off message` in the presidential stakes but it is quite likely that those were indeed the indications given over a few glasses of boardroom Rioja. Barcelona were very familiar with the strength of the Arsenal contract and Cheeky referred to the difficulties that presents yesterday. It seems hard to imagine, given the recent contact between the clubs, that Barcelona wouldn`t have contacted Arsenal directly long before now if it were their intention to get him this summer.

Picking up some of the feedback in Spain there is a strong sentiment that questions whether they need Cesc just now while presidential candidate, Sandro Rosell, has suggested very strongly that Barca can`t really afford him. It would appear that at this point Cesc would just be a trophy signing for Laporta. If that`s true then the deal might need to be done before the elections which I believe take place on June 13th if it`s to be done at all. It`s all just conjecture but Cesc`s demand that his future be settled before the world cup, as though he wasn`t already under a secure contract with Arsenal, seems to have been designed just to stir Barca into action. It wouldn`t surprise me to find it came as a shock to them as much as it did to us. Hard though it is to admit it if anything this looks more like a case of Cesc tapping up Barcelona this time rather than the other way around.

Having effectively told the club he wants away there seems little point in Arsenal trying to hang onto him. The shorter his contract becomes and the closer he is to an unprotected contract period the harder it will be to get top dollar. To extract the maximum benefit we can now from this position has to be the best course of action for Arsenal but Barca may not be in the shape to make that possible. If there is no team building imperative right now that would justify Barcelona paying a transfer fee that set against the ?40m they have paid for Villa, who can have little residual value at the end of his contract, should probably be double that then justifying it on top of the £5m or so a year Cesc is reportedly being paid is going to be hard. Yet having made all those previous noises that Cesc`s DNA made him their player whenever they wanted to bring him home, stepping back now is also pretty difficult for them.

In many ways if a transfer doesn`t go through now it`s going to feel pretty awkward for us too. We can`t be seen to let him go on the cheap but maybe holding onto him isn`t so healthy for us either. If Barca were unwilling or unable to match the market rate then that could leave us with a humiliated player who has effectively told us he wants to be somewhere else. What problems might it give us now if he didn`t leave? Could he captain the side with everyone knowing that the player supposedly leading by example doesn`t want to be here? What sort of example would that be? How could we reconcile taking the captaincy away from him given his previous status and what message does that give? It`s true many were able to forgive Vieira his flirtations because he was able to find the right noises whereas we were unable to forgive Adebayor because he could only make the wrong ones. Perhaps, if Cesc doesn`t go, he and the club could spin things to make it a little more comfortable for him to stay but everyone would know that he had wanted out sooner rather than later. Things wouldn`t be quite the same again. Unless, in the unlikely event he was willing to extend the unprotected part of his contract as a sign of commitment, his staying would present its own problems.

In the meantime Cesc will begin to find out just how determined Barca really are and how much they really do value him. Much of Vieira`s disenchantment with Real was that they didn`t ultimately value him at the level he felt his status warranted. There are also shades of Reyes infatuation with Real who also couldn`t find the money having made similarly encouraging noises towards him before deciding they didn`t really need him after all.

It would seem best for us to let go of Cesc now so that we can get on with the job of restructuring our midfield as quickly as we can. A task which has as many attractions as it does challenges. If we can conclude a deal early enough the possibility of us doing so successfully are greatly increased but if Barcelona weren`t fully prepared for this situation cropping up at this time a quick deal seems unlikely. We could find ourselves with similar regrets that Vieira`s failure to join Real did as the extra revenue would have given us greater team strengthening opportunities then as Cesc`s should now. It isn`t a great situation for either club but having been put in this position the greater regret would be if an uncommitted Cesc were still to be with us next season.

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