For a while, Xavi Hernandez seriously considered joining Manchester United.
He was just breaking through from the youth ranks at Barcelona and into the first team and though he was being touted as the next best thing, he had one problem. Pep Guardiola was still ahead of him in the pecking order. The then Barcelona captain commanded the midfield with orchestral fashion. Guardiola had been injured when Xavi had made a name for himself but the Catalan idol, while acknowledging the prodigious talents of the dimunitive Xavi, had promised to make life hard for him to get into the first team. Guardiola had been true to his word, hence the interest from Manchester.
Xavi’s hero and mentor was preventing him from realising his Catalan dreams.
As would happen, Xavi would pass the opportunity to join United, preferring to stick it out and work for his position. Guardiola would eventually leave paving way for the man nicknamed ‘maquina’ (machine) by his teammates to assert his dominance. When eventually Guardiola returned as manager, he would base his philosophy on Xavi, in the process heralding a golden age for Barcelona and the Spanish national team.
It is thus ironical that years after Xavi considered leaving Catalunya for the Red Devils, the man referred to as the next Xavi is subject to bids from the Manchester based club.
It is easy to see why United are in pursuit of Cesc Fabregas. The Spaniard, who has already played in the Barclays Premier League earlier on in his career would fulfill their search for a dynamic midfielder.
It seems an impossible venture for United to chase after Fabregas though, especially considering how he left Arsenal with an air of wanting to return home. But the manner in which the Red Devils have pursued the Spaniard seems to indicate that despite the 99.99% odds that point to him unwilling to leave Catalonia, they are willing to milk the 0.01% to the maximum.
It could be because one of the agents that represent Robin Van Persie also represents Fabregas, thus there could be an element of either insider information or an agent pushing for commission. It could also be that Barcelona also has a seemingly impossible pursuit of their own in Thiago Silva. Having identified the Brazilian center-back as the right person to solve their defensive issues, the Catalans have been subjected to the same response from PSG that they themselves are giving Manchester United – not for sale!
Yet, it may be that even though Thiago Silva will not materialise, a center back of his calibre will still be expensive. That is because there is a lack of defenders who can mix old fashioned defending with modern day football, and the ones that exist fetch a hefty price. Thus, Barcelona would need to sell — and sell big — if they are to spend huge sums of money for a center-back.
This would represent the only avenue upon which Fabregas would be sold.
For Fabregas himself though, the situation poses a dilemma. Although this was where he always dreamt of playing, the reality has not entirely matched the fantasy. At first, Pep Guardiola thought him too anarchic to deploy him in midfield and thus had him operating behind Lionel Messi in a somewhat false 10 role. Last season, he finally got his chance, starting most games in La Liga of all of Barca’s outfield players. Most of these games were in his preferred midfield position.
But he continually kept on making the same runs as Andres Iniesta, thus the two would collide in space and negate Barca’s attacking threat. It was also in the games that mattered most in the Champions League that he saw Tito Vilanova revert to Pep’s usual midfield three of Xavi, Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, and with David Villa fit, Fabregas had to find space on the bench.
He would therefore be mulling over the fact whether a move away should be considered. A return to the Barclays Premier League would suit. Despite having left, he still remains top of the charts in most successful through balls completed in the League in the last five years. He would also re-ignite a partnership with former Arsenal teammate Van Persie at United.
However, it should not make sense for him to leave now. With the appointment of Gerardo Martino, Barcelona is bound to be more direct this season if Tata implements his verticalidad style of football. More forward passes certainly suit Fabregas’s llegada – his runs from deep into the box.
It is this llegada that has meant he is no longer considered a replacement for Xavi, who is more patient and prefers horizontal passes. But with the passing master aging, Fabregas would be best suited to take over a midfield spot that would be vacated without being required to perform the same role as Xavi.
The drama will drag on and the saga it seems will only be concluded once the transfer window ends. In the meantime though, all three parties have their interests to worry about. For Fabregas however, it leaves him in a situation of Hamletian proportions. To leave or not to leave is the question.