It was made no secret that former Manchester United manager David Moyes saw Cesc Fabregas as his top target last summer and whilst the 27-year-old Barcelona midfielder opted to stay in his homeland, it looks increasingly likely the former Gunners skipper could be on the move this summer.
He has not been the most popular player at the Camp Nou since he arrived back in Catalonia in 2011 after spending eight years in North London with Arsenal who he joined as 16-year-old.
The protracted saga to get the Spain international back to Barcelona where they claimed his ‘Barca DNA’ was rightfully theirs seems now to have been somewhat pointless as he failed to cement his place in the starting line up in his preferred position, behind the likes of Spain colleagues Xavi, Andres Iniesta and, of course, Lionel Messi.
Reports emerged this week that Barcelona have placed a valuation of £45 million on the player whom it has been suggested could be a top target for newly appointed Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal.
There have been suggestions for many years that the Fabregas deal negotiated by Arsenal included a first option on any deal should the La Liga giants decide to sell him, with other reports claiming the Gunners could receive 50 per cent of the fee should he be sold to another club.
Now, Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has implied the club are able and, crucially, willing to spend big this summer. After years of restriction in the transfer market, the Gunners have agreed new sponsorship deals, which mean they can go out and buy a player such as the club record signing Mesut Ozil who arrived in September for £42.5 million from Real Madrid.
However, whilst reports have emerged in recent weeks that Arsene Wenger could be handed up to £100 million to spend this summer, following the club’s FA Cup win last weekend after nine years without a trophy, I would highly doubt the infamously frugal Frenchman would actually spend anywhere near that figure.
The club was prepared to offer £40,000,001 for Liverpool striker Luis Suarez last summer and the evidence would suggest that is the kind of price Wenger will be willing to set as his threshold in terms of bringing in world-class players.
With that in mind, I would think it unlikely Arsenal would spend, for example, £45 million on a striker and then another £45 million on another player in another positions, such as midfielder which, for all intents and purposes, is an area they are well stocked in.
Therefore, would Arsenal prefer the return of the prodigal son to his rightful home in North London or that world-class centre-forward the fans have been crying out for since the departure of Robin van Persie?
Furthermore, if they opted to bring Fabregas back to the Emirates, where would he play? I suppose the club could sacrifice older players in midfield such as Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini, Tomas Rosicky and the perpetually-injured Abou Diaby and have Fabregas back to lead the new generation of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Serge Gnabry, and Ozil.
Or, could the manager make a surprise decision and opt to play Fabregas in a ‘false 9’ role as he has for both Barcelona and Spain previously? He has the finishing quality to operate in that role but what would become of Ozil and current striker Olivier Giroud in a system that incorporated him into it?
It’s a real conundrum – on the one hand, I don’t think there is an Arsenal fan on the planet who wouldn’t love to see him back in a red and white shirt but, on the other hand, the club and the team have compensated for his departure long ago and the new generation are making progress. It would surely be damaging to the development of Ramsey and Wilshere, especially.
Overall, I have to admit, if the money is there to close the deal and the player would welcome a return I think there is absolutely no reason the club shouldn’t welcome him back – after all, no Arsenal fan will want to see him join Van Persie at Old Trafford and that is looking like the alternative at present.
If it means continuing with Giroud (and young Yaya Sanogo) as the only recognized strikers, though, I wonder whether it would be a worthwhile sacrifice.
I suppose the best-case scenario could be for Arsenal to bring Fabregas back and then buy a striker like Loic Remy, for example, for a lower price (quoted as £12 million) and that would still be £57 million on transfers which wouldn’t be so bad.
Then they just need to acquire replacements for Lukasz Fabianski, Bacary Sagna and perhaps current skipper Thomas Vermaelen. It’s hard to guess where Arsene Wenger’s priorities will be this summer but if picking with the heart rather than the head, it would be for Fabregas.