It seemed a match made in football heaven when Cesc Fabregas joined Barcelona back in 2011. It also ended one of the longest running transfer stories in recent memory with the Spaniard re-joining his first ever club for a fee believed to be around 29 million euros with five million in add-ons. But the real question is, has it been the right transfer?
Fabregas moved to London as a 16 year-old in 2003 and went on to make a total of 303 appearances for Arsenal, scoring 57 goals.
In relation to Arsenal, statistics show that in five years prior to his departure from the Gunners, Fabregas created 466 goal-scoring chances, made 75 assists and scored 30 goals. These stats are also made even more impressive by the fact that they topped those from fellow midfielders Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, even despite them having made more appearances in the same period.
The influential Spanish midfielder joined Barcelona on the 15th August 2011 but it has not all been plain sailing for him since the transfer. However, the decision to join his boyhood club was always an easy one for Fabregas and why wouldn’t it be? Moving from a club who were trophy less in his whole time there to a team that had won three La Liga titles in a row and two Champions League trophies in just three seasons. The Spaniard maintained that there as a black mark on his Arsenal career “In terms of titles, I am bitter about that. Missing out on winning the Premier League about three times – I would have liked to have taken that, but it could not happen.”
It was obvious from day one that he could find the move potentially difficult due to a number of factors; none more so than the rivals in his favoured position of central midfield. The ever present Xavi, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta, as well as new signing Alex Song and youth star Jonathon Dos Santos have made it extremely difficult for Fabregas to slot into the favoured 4-3-3 formation adopted by the Catalan giants. On the other hand, the strength in depth in the centre of midfield has seen the man nicknamed ‘Cesc’ play in a more attacking role than he was used to in his time at the Emirates Stadium. This forward position has seen him score a credible 21 goals in 65 appearances, many of which have been off the bench.
His debut for Barcelona came in the second leg of the infamous Spanish Super-cup, coming on as a substitute against bitter rivals Real Madrid. His first goal for the club came in a 2-0 win against FC Porto in the UEFA Super Cup in which the winner of the Champions League plays the winner of the Europa league. The month of September 2011 was his most successful thus far since joining, after he scored four goals; including a late and important equaliser against Valencia at the Mestalla. On the whole, Fabregas’ first season at Barcelona was largely successful, with the club winning the Copa del Rey, the Spanish Super-cup, the UEFA Super Cup and the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup, as well as personally notching 15 goals and 20 assists in 48 appearances. He also set a new record for a new player when he scored in his fourth consecutive match for Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
The second season at the club has been somewhat more difficult. The departure of manager Pep Guardiola was a big shock for all involved with the Catalan club, but the club tried to keep the surroundings similar by appointing his successor as former assistant Tito Villanova. Perhaps surprisingly, Barcelona have continued to push on since their former boss’ departure and have already virtually sewn up the La Liga title with a massive lead over Real Madrid and city rivals Atletico. They also successfully overcame a two goal deficit against AC Milan in the Champions League and have once again reached the quarter finals of the prestigious trophy with many tipping them to go all the way to the final which takes place at Wembley this season.
Fabregas ended a goal drought in a style when he scored a brace against Sevilla, leading them to an important 3-2 victory. A further 3 goals came in the month of October and then another one coming in a 4-0 victory at La Liga’s surprise package Levante UD. His last goal for the club came in a 3-1 win at Manuel Pellegrini’s Malaga.
Despite being at the club for over a year now, Fabregas does still not consider himself a first team starter just yet. The quote from Cesc which read “I have never seen a team that is so focused on the attack-defend transition – playing against Barcelona is very complicated but playing at the club is also not so easy and that is the challenge” shows that he still feels he has a lot to learn in order to become one of the first names on the team sheet. One thing which could fill the midfielder with confidence is the fact that teammate Xavi Hernandez is in the latter years of his career and this could soon mean more first team chances for Cesc Fabregas. With more starting eleven opportunities perhaps coming his way it may be a bold statement but the Spanish midfielder could become a club legend and what better place to do it than at the biggest football club in the world right now.