The speculation about Cesc Fabregas has almost reached a fever pitch, as the opening of the transfer window approaches. It seems that another story about him emerges every 10 minutes on Twitter or on one of the usual media outlets. Inside experts on both sides seem to be only too keen to tip off the media, or so the media would have the fans believe.
I listened to Graham Hunter on Newstalk last night, and he was keen to point out to one and all that he is not a mouthpiece for Barcelona. He followed that statement by saying he knew Barcelona's manager Pep Guardiola considers Cesc to be a vital player for him to sign. Apparently if Guardiola stays in charge of Barcelona he considers Cesc to be a huge part of their future, and he is very anxious to buy him from Arsenal as soon as possible.
Hunter also said that Barcelona's bid is only an opening gambit in their attempt to obtain their target. Barcelona have paid large sums for players in the past, but they seem to be of the opinion that they will be able to get Cesc for a sum well below his market value. Apparently their chairman has said he is not prepared to offer as much as he did last summer, but that bid was unsuccessful on that occasion.
Hunter claims to be "in the know" and he says that Cesc is so desperate to leave Arsenal that he told his agent he would join Manchester City at the end of last season if the move to Barcelona fell through. I have no doubt that Cesc is an intelligent man and he has to have a fair idea what his actual market value is. I'm sure he realises that Arsenal will not sell him to any club unless they get a fair price for one of the best players in the world.
Things are complicated by Cesc's desire to return to his hometown club, but that should not be a bargaining chip for Barcelona. How can Cesc feel about Barcelona's judgement on his abilities if they simply refuse to meet a price that is fair under current market conditions. Players who are not fit to lace Cesc's boots are changing hands for exorbitant fees at the moment, and a player of his proven ability does not come cheaply.
Hunter went as far as to say Cesc is an asset with a depreciating value, and Arsenal need to cash in now or lose even more money on him. He said Cesc only cost Arsenal one million Euros, and they should be happy with the huge profit they will make. If that isn't being a mouthpiece for Barcelona I don't know what is, as Hunter makes the exact arguments that Barcelona themselves are making.
If Cesc really wants to go as badly as Hunter says then he can join City for the price Arsenal are asking for in my opinion. I would be shocked if Cesc made that statement about City, or if he did that he actually meant it. Of course it would be a huge blow for Arsenal to sell the best player in the Premier League to a rival, but when the alternative is to allow Barcelona to dictate the price I think Arsenal need to take a stand.
Barcelona cannot be allowed to ride roughshod over the hopes and aspirations of Arsenal fans, and it's up to the club to make sure they don't. There has been a suggestion that Arsene Wenger made an agreement with Cesc last summer, and that the club wouldn't stand in the way of him joining Barcelona this summer. It would have been a similar deal to the one supposedly agreed between Manchester United and Ronaldo a couple of years ago.
However, Real Madrid paid roughly €90 million for Ronaldo when he joined them despite the fact that there were no other bidders. If that deal is indeed in place Arsenal will keep their part of it and sell Cesc this summer, but I'm sure he would have told Cesc that Barcelona need to match a fair valuation to trigger the move. At the moment Barcelona have not done so and they claim they will not either which is good news for Arsenal and their fans too.
If they fail to come up with the money Arsenal want and deserve I cannot see any option for Cesc but to return to pre-season training next Monday, and resume his role as Arsenal's captain and star player. The ball is firmly in Barcelona's court, and only their failure to do what is required to get their man will result in Cesc remaining at Arsenal if all of this is true. I hope Barcelona stand firm and refuse to raise their bid past the level which they failed with last summer, and Arsenal get to keep their best player.
Players like Cesc are very rare and it will be Barcelona's loss and Arsenal's gain if they don't take advantage of their opportunity. In an ideal world for Arsenal Cesc will stay and Arsenal will bring in the players needed to take the team to the next level. I cannot believe that he will refuse to return to training, as he is far too professional a player to stoop to such a level.
Arsenal fans all over the world want the matter sorted as soon as possible so that the team can move on and prepare for the challenges of next season, and it simply cannot be allowed to drag on until the end of the transfer window. Barcelona should be told that Arsenal will no longer be prepared to entertain any offers for Cesc once he has returned to the club next Monday. If they cannot raise their offer by then it should be the end of the matter for another year at least, and it will be obvious to one and all that Barcelona just won't pay what the player is worth.
The current situation where newspapers are revealing "exclusives" about Cesc on a daily basis cannot be allowed to continue. Yesterday The Mirror treated Arsenal fans to the exclusive that Arsenal were afraid of losing both Cesc and Samir Nasri this week. Arsenal have been afraid of losing both players for quite a while now, and to call such a story an exclusive is an insult to their fans.
The Nasri situation has to be resolved this week with the players due back, as does the situation with Cesc, and to suggest it's an exclusive to report those facts is simply a joke. The problem is Arsenal fans are desperate for news and with the club keeping their cards close to their chest the fans are grasping at straws in their search for information. Newspapers will print any sort of rubbish to sell papers or get hits on their websites, and fans need to remember that when they get their hopes up.
Neither player are the first Arsenal players to be heavily predicted to leave the club, but Arsenal have always only sold players when they decide it's the right time to do so. If the club decide Barcelona have offered an amount that is acceptable, and Cesc can be allowed to go I'm sure Wenger will have an idea of what his next moves in the transfer market should be. Arseblog chronicles some of the previous players who the media had stated were certain to leave Arsenal today in his blog, and as always it's a must read for Arsenal fans.
The current transfer window seems interminable to Arsenal fans, but it's no different to any other one in reality and it's just a matter of time before Arsenal become active. There has been no activity from Chelsea, City or Real Madrid either, and I'm sure their fans are fairly anxious too. It isn't helped by Premier League champions Manchester United spending over £50 million on new players already, but panic buying would not be a good idea for any club.
It would seem Arsenal are very close to completing deals for a few players, but these things take time and the fans need to be patient. It would of course help if Arsenal were seen to be pursuing some genuinely world class players, but hopefully they are doing so in private. I'm still relatively hopeful that Wenger will address the obvious problems in the squad this summer, and keep Cesc at the club as well.
That's it for today.
Here's a look at the highlights from Arsenal's 3-2 over The Spuds in 1984.
See You Tomorrow.