The Cesc Fabregas transfer has finally finished. Of course, it had to happen while there were no computers nearby yesterday, but it's done. I expect by now everyone is tired of reading about it, and there is a season to focus on, so we'll move on after this.
Earlier this summer, I really didn't think it would happen. I thought Samir Nasri was more likely to leave, as he could be far more easily replaced by players both internal and external. From everything I had read, it seemed unlikely that Barcelona could muster the cash necessary to meet the price that, admittedly, Arsenal had set (differently from last summer, when they categorically said Cesc was not available for transfer). I said to anyone who asked that I would be surprised if Cesc left this summer.
It wasn't because of the contract, either. The idealist in me (which is most of me, honestly), says that a contract is a contract and everyone should honor it; otherwise, isn't it meaningless...but. In reality, a contract is a strategic tool for both parties; it's leverage. Unfortunately, in this case, Arsenal couldn't use that leverage, since only one club was ever in for Cesc, really. £35m is clearly not his value, judged against other transfers in the past nine months, e.g. Andy Carroll, Javier Pastore, Jordan Henderson, et al.
(Seriously: 35 million.)
As for the business itself, the whole thing inflamed my cynicism. If there are rules against tapping up, they're useless, more or less. And that's what's really infuriating to me: Barcelona were able to use the media to play off of Cesc's desire to return home (which nobody can blame him for), making Arsenal's position so untenable that they couldn't set a price that was fair. To me, it's bad business, it's bullying, and it's frustrating as hell. But then, it's reality: Barcelona are the best team on earth, virtually immune to FIFA and UEFA censure at this point, and backed by essentially the entire of the Catalan polity. There's just nothing to be done; they are immense. My frustration in this regard is of the man soaked by the sudden squall: shaking my fists at something vastly out of my control.
I wrote extensively on the media's role in all this, and suffice it to say here that their work helped one side of the deal vastly more than the other, and it certainly wasn't the team in London.
In the end, Arsenal must move on. Cesc was the central figure at the club for the last five years, and he leaves behind the following legacy as the official website describes:
Fabregas joined the Club from Barcelona as a 16-year-old in September 2003 and made 303 appearances, scoring 57 goals in all competitions.
He holds the records for the youngest Arsenal first team player (16 years and 177 days v Rotherham United (h), 28 October 2003) and the youngest Arsenal first team goalscorer (16 years and 212 days v Wolves (h), 2 December, 2003).
Scoring huge goals against Milan and Spurs (including unleashing fury immediately after kickoff), captaining the side for the last three years, and coordinating the most pleasing attack in the Premier League, Cesc was immense for the team. It is debatable how he handled this saga, but for me, it's difficult to see what he could do differently besides not wanting to move.
But he's gone now. Arsenal have to figure out how to replace his creativity in the middle.