“On the rooftops shouting out, baby I’m ready to go!”
Thus sung Republica’s lead vocalist Saffron in 1996. If what I’m hearing is true, then Cesc Fàbregas is currently singing the same song too.
Well-informed, reliable sources close to Higbury House today (Tuesday 18 May 2010) said that Cesc Fàbregas has almost certainly made his last appearance for Arsenal. One well-placed source said it was “90% certain” he would be leaving us to return to his boyhood club FC Barcelona in the coming weeks.
There is a VERY small chance that he may yet be persuaded to stay, at least for one more season. With the Catalan giants putting the pressure on, telling him that this is his time, I personally doubt that we will see Cesc in the red and white again.
He is reported by Catalan journalist Guillem Balagué, a correspondent who has great sources and is not prone to bullshitting, to be meeting Arsčne Wenger this week to give the manager his final decision. I now believe that he will tell the manager, “Moltes gràcies. Jo vaig.“(Thanks very much. I’m off).
If that is his decision it will be a very sad day for Arsenal. I remember how I felt when Liam Brady decamped to Turin giants Juventus in the summer of 1980. Brady went on to spend the best seasons of his career in Italy, playing for La Vecchia Signora (where he won two consecutive Serie A scudetti in 1980/81 and 1981/2), Sampdoria and Internazionale (where he formed a sensational midfield/forward partnership with the great West German striker Karl-Heinz Rummenigge at the San Siro). After a short stay with Ascoli at the start of the 1986/7 season, he returned for a brief swansong with West Ham United before hanging up his boots.
I believe the loss of Fabregas could represent the same level of setback which Brady’s departure in 1980 represented for the club. A very promising side had been built with a good blend of experience and youth with Brady at its heart and a very Irish green hue, the great Pat Jennings in goal, a back four of Sammy Nelson, Willie Young, David O’Leary and Pat Rice. Graham Rix, Brian Talbot and David Price in midfield with Liam Brady. Frank Stapleton was up front Alan Sunderland. There were good reserves in Steve Gatting, John Devine and goalie George Wood.
That side reached three consecutive FA Cup Finals, losing to Ipswich Town in 1978 (from whom we bought Brian Talbot), beating Manchester United in an unforgettable Wembley afternoon in 1979 and losing the West Ham United in 1980 after a marathon four game, three replay semi-final series with Liverpool. We also reached the European Cup Winners’ Cup Final in 1980, losing to Valencia on penalties after extra time in Brussels.
If Cesc does decide to up sticks and leave we don’t want to go backwards as we did after the departure of Brady then Frank Stapleton. I blogged several weeks ago that we need a plan B up our sleeve if Cesc does return to Catalonia. We need to extract the biggest possible transfer fee to employ in buying replacements. Neither Brady nor Stapleton were ever satisafactorily replaced. We need to have plan B in place whilst moving heaven and earth to keep Cesc if it’s at all possible.
Apparently it isn’t a matter of money. His total package at the moment is in the region of £6.4 million a season taking into account on-costs. He won’t do much better than that financially. Spain’s concessionary tax break for ex-patriots won’t apply to him as a Spanish national so he’ll be paying 43% in income tax, not much different to here in Britain (50%), although employees’ social security contributions are less (6.35%) as the employer pays far more than here (29.9%). With the fall in Sterling’s exchange rate against the Euro from close to €1.50 to around €1.10, British clubs have lost a competitive edge in player salaries compared to countries in the Euro zone.
Anyway cash is not the big issue apparently. Lack of success on the park is. Cesc has only won one medal in his time at Arsenal, our last. He lifted the 2005 FA Cup at Cardiff. He didn’t feature in the 2003/4 Invincibles campaign. Liam Brady’s haul of one FA Cup winners’ medal and a runners-up medal in Europe (Cesc played against Barcelona in Paris) is another uncanny parallel. Cesc has made 267 appearances for us, including 30 as a substitute, scoring 48 goals, since making his debut as our youngest ever player in the Carling Cup in October 2003 against Rotherham United at home (a record he has since lost to Jack Wilshere).
I hope his 267th appearance wasn’t his last for us. I fear that it was.
I’ll blog further on the consequences and where next for the club if the little Catalan wonder does leave tomorrow.
Keep the faith!

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