Barcelona midfielder has been touted for surprise return to the Emirates
March 22, 2008. Stadio San Siro, Milan, Italy. Arsenal stun Champions League holders AC Milan with a scintillating 2-0 victory in a dramatic last-16 second-leg tie.
Emmanuel Adebayor scored the late goal to send Arsenal into the semi-finals, but the men who did the real damage that night were Mathieu Flamini and Cesc Fabregas, the brains and the brawn of the Gunners midfield who utterly dominated the Italian side.
In fact, throughout the 2007-08 season, it was Fabregas and Flamini who seemed set to drive Arsenal to their first silverware since 2005. With Flamini sitting deep in midfield allowing his Spanish team-mate to roam forward, Arsene Wenger’s side appeared destined to glory either in the Premier League or the Champions League.
In the event, they won neither, crumbling domestically after a horrific injury to striker Eduardo early in the new year, and slipping out of the Champions League to a Fernando Torres-inspired Liverpool in the quarter-finals.
Flamini went on to depart that summer, while Fabregas’s Arsenal exit was long and tortuous; not until 2011 did his much-heralded move to Barcelona finally take place.
All this brings us to the present day, and one of the more exciting transfer rumours as the January window approaches.
Could Fabregas be about to leave the Nou Camp after just two years and return to the Emirates? After the manner of his exit, which dragged on and on until just about everyone was sick of it, would Arsenal fans even want him back?
They should. The prospect of Febregas and Flamini, now each older, wiser and more mature players, linking up once again in Arsenal’s midfield is mouth-watering.
Both players have enjoyed successful, if unspectacular spells away from the Premier League. Flamini at AC Milan, where he was never quite the same player as he was at the Emirates, and Farbregas at his boyhood club Barcelona where, despite not always being first choice, he has established himself as a vital player.
Fabregas remains determined to forge a successful career at Barcelona, and that fact would make it very difficult for Arsenal to prise him away – if, indeed, they wanted to.
But for Arsene Wenger, would the prospect of Fabregas and Flamini once again becoming the beating heart of his midfield encourage him to make a bid?
Aaron Ramsey may have something to say about that, having been in spectacular form in central midfield this season. But Ramsey can also play on the right of Arsenal’s front three (and, at a push, on the left) so impact on the Welshman would be minimal.
Equally, Wenger may not feel he needs to add anything to his midfield. The return of Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski will free Jack Wilshere to return to his favoured central midfield position, while there Mikel Arteta has also been in good form.
Nevertheless, bringing back Fabregas either next month or during the summer would be a serious message of intent.
Fabregas and Flamini remain good friends, keeping in regular contact. The duo formed a bond at Arsenal five years ago – could Wenger be about to rekindle the magic of that famous night at the San Siro?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald