Why Arsenal fans should be more than happy to welcome back Cesc Fabregas to The Emirates.
As an Arsenal fan I don’t tend to get excited by transfer speculation these days.
Until we make our traditional signing of a 16 year old with West African origins who has played in the French second division and is invariably touted as the new Vieira, as far as I’m concerned any potential signing has nothing to do with my club until he signs, and then professes that it was always his dream in the dusty back streets of Dakar/Yaoundé/Ivory Coast/Berkshire to pull on the red and white of Arsenal and play in front of the North Bank under the Clock. Well, maybe not as bad as that but I’m sure you can gauge my level of cynicism, not just at the targets but at the fact that anyone joining us really doesn’t know that much about our ethos and history. Unilke Cesc Fabregas.
I can date this aversion to transfer speculation back to the summer of 1999, when on holiday with my girlfriend in Turkey I bought every out of date English newspaper I came across and devoured everything about Nicholas Anelka and his on-off transfer to Real Madrid. Every pronouncement was studied in depth and every nuance was critically analysed looking for re-assurance (or was it just desperate hope?) that he loved our club, his teammates, found the fans the best in the land and therefore could not tear himself away from Arsenal FC. I believed against all rational indicators and information that he would stay, and when he left I was devastated.
Even Arsene was furious, memorably shouting at the lad during one final round of face to face negotiations who was flanked by his two elder brothers (aren’t elder brothers supposed to help guide you not treat you like a commodity?) “why are you doing this?” - recalling that Anelka junior had his head bowed and couldn’t even look him in the eye, let alone respond.
So it is with great surprise and interest that I hear that Cesc Fabregas might be coming back to Arsenal. Of course I haven’t read it myself as I haven’t gone in for reading fevered speculation about our transfer targets since Anelka, and I have no idea whether it will come true. But what I can say is that for the first time in a long time I am genuinely excited about a transfer that has yet to happen.
Incidentally isn’t it refreshing not to worry this summer about who is leaving – even if it is probably because we don’t have any fit, genuine world class talents to sell anymore.
For me Cesc is a true Arsenal hero who only left to go back to his hometown club. He never lied to us to hide sheer greed like Na$ri or £ole, he didn’t try to mug us off like RvP and pretend it was the clubs fault, and he certainly didn’t slag us off when he left like Manu “I play well till I get new contract” Adebayor. He didn’t even believe he was better than he was, and kept his humility, unlike Alex Song who genuinely believed he could play in the Barcelona midfield. Really Alex? He didn’t even say he was popping out for an ice cream ala Hleb the day before an important CL tie in Milan only to meet some shady agents.
Speaking of Milan, it was Cesc’s performance that I witnessed in the flesh during our glorious 2-0 victory at the San Siro against that season’s holders the Rossoneri, that convinced me he had come of age. That and his sheer joy in his and our goal celebrations. Seeing the home fans clap us off at the end from the behind the Perspex high up in the away end at the stunning ground will live with me forever.
Cesc came to us when he was 16. His formative years might have been spent at the famed stone farmhouse at the La Masia academy which sits in the shadows of the less than inspiring façade of the Nou Camp (having seen the Gunners play there in 1999 and 2010 the majesty of the interior of that 98,000 capacity stadium is a far different matter). But he joined us a boy and left a man. He even played in some of the famed 49 game unbeaten run.
I remember the early part of the 2004/05 season where for the first six weeks of the season we played exhilarating football it was not only a joy to watch but a privilege. Commencing on the first day of that season at a raucous Goodison, in which he starred in a resounding 4-1 victory. He played so well, even a gracious died in the wool Everton fan told me in a local pub around the corner from the stadium after the game that he looked some prospect because he “f*cking stood up to the physical side of it”.
I remember thinking this lad has character. His technical abilities of course were not in dispute. He was a midfield fulcrum who’s crisp one touch passing and movement set him apart and made us dream. You don’t need me to mention his on field contributions over the years. Like me you were probably at the ground watching it.
His tenacity was a bonus. He led us as a youngster, learned from the Invincibles and morphed into our star player for a while. He took and scored a vital last minute penalty against his boyhood team with a broken leg. For a lad from the Barcelona coast he was as close to a home grown Arsenal player as you can find in the Premier league in the 21st century. Quite simply he never let us down.
But when he added goals to his play we knew the game was up. It was just annoying that Sandro Rossell showed such a lack of class in his pursuit of Cesc who was caught in the middle. It says a lot for him that no-one turned on him in that last season. But why should we when he played his heart out for us?
He also once told the ludicrous (and orange) Phil Brown to f*ck off after a game, not to mention baiting the preternaturally sterile Mark Hughes after a dull 0-0 draw against Blackburn by asking him if he had played for Barcelona. When Hughes smugly replied yes of course, our Cesc asked him why do you play football like that then? A perfect retort, as sharp and incise as his passing.
He even became Anglicised in his behaviour. When being interviewed immediately on TV after a victory at a hostile Maksimir in Croatia after a crucial Champions League qualifying victory he was accidentally knocked into by one of their players. Immediately and instinctively Cesc apologised. What could be more English than that?
So mate, I really do hope you can come back - even better if we get you on the cheap just to p*ss off Rossell and the Barca hierarchy - as I think next year the 2013/14 title really is up for grabs. I for one would love to see you don the red and white of Arsenal again,, not least in frenzied anticipation of the sight of you and Jack bossing our midfield, feeding the likes of Cazorla, the Ox, Theo and any new 16 year old wunderkids the club buys this summer.
Just don’t ask me whether the signing is going to happen or not.
Follow Layth on twitter @laythy29