Cesc Statement – Will We Walk The Walk?

The official Arsenal FC statement issued on Wednesday regarding Barcelona’s offer for Cesc Fàbregas was certainly emphatic, if less than elegant in its use of the English language.
As regular readers of my blogs on this estimable site will know, I don’t often comment on transfer speculation. It has a tendency to drive me nutty. As the statement is official I’ve made an exception in this case.
In summary, the statement certainly talks the talk. It couldn’t be more emphatic. We may have to wait some months, possibly right up to the summer transfer window closing at the end of August, to see if the club walks the walk.
It appears beyond doubt that Cesc wants to leave. Whether the club has the stones to keep a player who clearly wants out is an open question. My hope is that Cesc has enough respect for Arsenal and is sufficiently professional to put to one side his disappointment at not being allowed to leave. What we don’t want is a player going into a terminal sulk and not giving his best. From Cesc’s performances last season I think that he has. I don’t KNOW that however.
I also don’t know if the manager and the board have the stones to stay the course if Barça really push the boat out on their offer. There are no circumstances in which we should accept the current offer of €35 million (about £29.26 million at todays “sell” exchange rate). I’d imagine the club wouldn’t exchange any cash it receives in Euros into Sterling as much of it is likely to be paid out in the same currency for incoming international transfers, most of which are denominated in Euros (although transfers from Latin America and Asia are usually done in US Dollars). It would be daft to lose out on the difference between the “buy” and “sell” currency price spread when we do so much incoming business in Euros (which is also the currency in which we receive Champions League payments from UEFA). The club uses a financial technique called “hedging” to even out the effect of exchange rate rises and falls. Very wise with all the turbulence in the financial markets at the moment with the mounting sovereign debt crisis here, in the Eurozone and the USA.
Barcelona has made repeated statements that it won’t overpay for Cesc. As irritating as I find the tendency of Barça (and other Spanish clubs, particularly Real Madrid) to conduct transfer through the media and to “tap up” players contracted to other clubs, I suppose you can’t blame them for trying to do the best for themselves. The rules against tapping up have always been a bit of a paper tiger.
Proving tapping up is notoriously difficult in the absence of the player concerned being prepared to provide evidence which they’re notoriously reluctant so to do. As I said it behoves us not to be too holier than though. We have indulged in the practice over the years, as do most clubs. The practice was bound to spread as the transfer market became more and more open and international as restrictions on foreign players were loosened and in some cases completely dropped as they were here for a good few years until the new Premier League and Football League rules, coming in next season in the case of the former.
Replacing a truly world-class talent like Cesc Fàbregas will be very difficult. Equally though stopping a player leaving who is absolutely determined on a move is also very difficult. I do think that it’s a bit rich for Cesc and his father-agent to be trying moral blackmail in this case. If he was so determined to return to Catalonia why did he take the backdated pay-rise and contract extension he got last summer? The obvious answer is because we offered it. On the other hand he did indeed sign the new contract and take the money – widely reported as increasing his basic salary to £5.72 million a year, costing us around £6.3 million with add-ons like employer’s National Insurance Contributions and so on – so he can hardly complain if we want to hold him to the deal he’s agreed to.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s pronouncements about player slavery as the Cristiano Ronaldo transfer saga rumbled on were typical of the man – nonsense. I’m somebody who thinks that players have historically been very badly treated since the game went professional at the end of the nineteenth century. For most of the time they were treated as indentured servants, chattels to be bought and sold at the whim of their autocratic clubs. This was particularly true here with the imposition of the maximum wage, which lasted until 1961, only being abolished under the threat of a player strike. When it was abolished the maximum wage stood at just £20 a week, about a quarter more than the average industrial wage. Imagine that, just five years before England won the World Cup. That £20 would be about £575 a week in today’s money. How times change.
With complete freedom of contract now I don’t think it’s unfair to ask a player to give up the rights most of us have to resign and go elsewhere for employment during the term of their contracts in return for the lavish salaries they receive. Such restrictions are called “restrictive covenants” in employment law. The courts tend to overturn such covenants if they’re too restrictive but I think that one can hardly call voluntarily surrendering the right to seek employment elsewhere in return for a salary in the millions is hardly “slavery”.
If you don’t like the restriction then don’t agree with it. The price the player would have to pay is a much lower salary and much less security of course. I can understand why they opt for the bigger salary and enhanced security of a multi-year contract. They’ve got to take the rough with the smooth however. The smooth is VERY smooth for players in the Premier League and other top European leagues at least, especially the handful of star players like Cesc.
I have a sneaking feeling that the Cesc transfer speculation will be a saga that will torture us all in the Gooner Nation for a good while yet.
Keep the faith!

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