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Four questions as the Cesc Fàbregas saga finally ends

It is finally over. After a soap opera-style saga which has dragged on across two summers – and featured one last twist in the tail on Friday – the curtain came down last night on the Arsenal career of Cesc Fàbregas after eight years, 303 games, 57 goals and countless moments of audacious skill which are simply beyond the compass of all but a tiny handful of his peers.

It is now time to look forwards, to see how Arsène Wenger spends the transfer proceeds to replace both Fàbregas and the soon-to-be-departed Samir Nasri. But, setting aside the emotion associated with the loss of the club’s best player in his prime, here are four key questions which have been troubling me over the last few days.

1. Why only £35m?

Image courtesy of arsenal.com

On the face of it, a deal which values the 24-year old Fàbregas at a maximum of £35m (about a quarter of it in add-ons) seems like a bargain, particularly when you consider that Liverpool paid the same amount for Andy Carroll, or that Manchester United managed to wangle £80m out of Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo.

Despite the player still having four years left on his contract, Arsenal were certainly hampered by the fact that Barcelona were the only buyer in town and that Fàbregas so clearly wanted to return home. In our modern post-Bosman football world, it is very difficult to stop players getting what they want.

For sure, Fàbregas’s fee might have been pushed up above £40m – a more reasonable valuation, surely – if another big club had come in for him. But what would have been the point? Cesc had made it clear he was only ever going to leave Arsenal for one other team, and for anyone else to have tried – even the seemingly bottomless pockets of Real Madrid or Manchester City – would only have been an exercise in futility and embarrassment.

The reality is Arsenal were always stuck between a rock and a hard place, and had little to gain by holding on to a disgruntled player and holding out for a few million more. As part of the deal, they will receive 50% of any subsequent fee should Fàbregas leave Barcelona – although obviously the Catalan club have included this clause on the assumption that Cesc will either retire with his hometown club or leave for a pittance in the final years of his career.

As for the 48-hour delay, Barcelona – in particular, a number of their players – jumped the gun on Friday in announcing the completion of the deal in violation of non-disclosure agreements. Such terms are standard practice in any deals (whether in football or more generally in business), to ensure that news is formally announced in a timely and organised fashion. Ignoring such agreements is bad form (and can in theory have legal consequences), so for Arsenal to then stall the announcement until after their opening game at Newcastle was not unreasonable. A little petty, perhaps, but fair enough given Barcelona’s flouting of due process.

Robbie Keane is another rare example of a team who has returned to the club who sold him (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

2. Will Barcelona effectively pay themselves a sell-on fee?

Of course, Arsenal will probably not receive all of the fee. I stand to be corrected on this one, but my understanding is that part of the compensation agreement between the two clubs when Fàbregas moved from Spain to England (for a nominal fee of just £500,000) was the inclusion of a sell-on fee in the event of a future transfer.

This is common practice in football, but what is less usual – though by no means unique – is for the initial seller to then be the subsequent buyer. (I can think of two recent examples of this occurring, both involving Tottenham strikers: Jermain Defoe‘s moves to and from Porstmouth, and Robbie Keane‘s short-lived transfer to Liverpool.)

Does this mean that Barcelona will receive some of their own money back in the form of a sell-on fee? If so, it’s an unusual little windfall for them, and somewhat galling for Arsenal to have to pay Barcelona for buying a player off them.

3. What is the point of a loyalty bonus?

Let’s be clear about this. I have no doubt that Fàbregas will always retain a fondness for Arsenal. But at the same time, nobody should be fooled into thinking that he did not slap in a transfer request out of a sense of loyalty to the club. The motivation was purely a financial one.

In common with many other footballer deals, Cesc had a loyalty clause which guaranteed him a bonus payment if his contract – which still had four years to run – was broken by the club. By engineering a move without the need for a transfer request, Fàbregas will activate this loyalty clause and receive a bonus thought to be worth £1m for each remaining year of his contract (i.e. £4m in total). In effect, it will offset the seemingly altruistic ‘pay cut’ he has reportedly agreed to take to facilitate the deal. Swings and roundabouts.

It’s not so much a loyalty bonus as one for not showing overt disloyalty, isn’t it? A player can do whatever else is in his power to force through a transfer – openly court another club, refuse to play or concoct phantom injuries – but in contractual terms is considered ‘loyal’ unless he puts his dissatisfaction formally in writing.

I won’t condemn Fàbregas for doing whatever he has done behind the scenes to oil the wheels. He is hardly the first to have done so, and he will not be the last. But it seems like a mighty odd way for football clubs to incentivise their players.

EDIT: Fàbregas has reportedly waived his loyalty bonus to help facilitate the move – an indication of his determination to complete the transfer, but also a sign that his primary motivation was not a financial one. It is a refreshing gesture in a world where too many players claim not to be forcing a transfer on the basis of money, while at the same time doubling their salary.

4. Where now for Arsenal?

The message from Arsenal’s travelling fans at Newcastle was loud and clear: “Spend some f***ing money!”

Wilshere will carry the burden of being Fabregas's successor (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

It is easy to predict doom and gloom for Arsenal – and many fans have done exactly that – but it is also not the first time the club has sold its captain on the eve of a new season. Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry were both considered talismanic and irreplaceable, but each was already past the peak years of their career and the team readjusted and moved forwards without them. However, in the case of Fàbregas (and Nasri), he is approaching his best years and although Jack Wilshere is his heir apparent, the squad looks more threadbare than after the previous departures. The despondency is understandable, although it will hopefully be mitigated by some top quality signings before the end of the month.

Regardless of the circumstances of his protracted departure, I will have nothing but good memories of Cesc Fàbregas. His first-team debut in the League Cup against Rotherham. (I was at Highbury that night, and I remember commenting after the match that the then 16-year old simply looked like he belonged in such exalted company.) A coming-of-age performance in a 1-0 victory against Real Madrid at the Bernabéu. His late long-range winner against AC Milan. The audacious dribble and goal from the halfway line against Tottenham at the Emirates.

But now it is time to look forwards.

Wenger faces his biggest challenge over the next fortnight before the transfer window closes. Reinforcements are needed in several positions – a tough central defender, holding midfielder, creative midfielder and goalscorer are all high on the shopping list – but time is against him, as is the fact that any potential sellers will be fully aware that Arsenal are (a) in desperate need and (b) flush with cash, which can only hinder negotiations. However, he at least has ample funds to spend on this occasion, a luxury which has not always been afforded him in recent years.

The fans’ short-term confidence, the club’s medium-term prospects and indeed Wenger’s future beyond this season will all pivot on what happens immediately after the Fàbregas saga.

Never a dull moment.

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

7 Responses to Four questions as the Cesc Fàbregas saga finally ends

  1. Sandra says:

    I want to ask a 5th question looking at things from another angle …. has Fabregas considered that he will now be a very small fish in a big pond at Barca? He is going to get so much less playing time, because he is just going to be another great midfielder in an already over populated / over talented team ….. I’m not so sure this was a well thought-out career move from him … I think he did this listening to his heart rather than using common sense…. But if it makes him happy then why not …. I just really hope that his career isn’t going to go on the same downward spiral like so many others who left Arsenal in the past and who are very sorry about the move afterwards …. Good luck Fabregas… you served us well.

    • Tim says:

      A good question. For sure, when players have moved from Arsenal to Barcelona in the past, things have usually turned out badly for them. Think back to Overmars, Petit, Henry and Hleb. Sometimes it was because they were nearing the end of their careers anyway, sometimes they simply couldn’t make the adjustment. Cesc will not displace Xavi or Iniesta yet, although I can see him getting 15-20 starts and another 20-30 appearances off the bench this season. Next season, who knows? But it still feels to me like he would have been better off waiting another 12 months before returning home.

      Even after all that has happened, I still want Cesc to do well (although not if they play us, obviously). He is too precious a talent to go to waste. But, even though we have been bracing ourselves for this moment for 15 months, it is still a very sad day today.

  2. ameed says:

    another important question : why wenger waited till the 15th of august to admit defeat in fabregas lose , and not in the fisrt week of july ( i mean , now we are 2 weeks from the end of transfer window , if he sold cesc in july , we would have more than 1 month to find good replacement…) , plus in friday he said neither cesc or nasri will leave arsenal , so after this , it is 1 of these two : wenger is stupid or wenger is deluded !!! i think he lost it at all !!! i really hope arsenal will qualify for the champions league this season , but in the other hand , i really hope that we will finish 6th in the league , to let this clown to fuckkk off !!!! had enough !! and btw , why he still hanging on nasri till now ??? the guy doesn’t want to renew his contract simple !! and 1000% after cesc left us , he wont !!! so this a much harder slap in wenger’s face than the cesc one !!! why till now he didnt replace squillaci ???? why he didnt replace clichy ???? lolll at the end of the last season i said we need to replace rosicky and arshavin cause they didnt do nothing to us !! damn , we will keep them and we r selling our best 2 !!!! how funy arsenal became becoz of this clown !!! u know what hurts more , that people lying at u , in ur face..this what wenger , gazidis and hillwood doing for longggg time !!!! i had rather be hurt by the truth than protected by a lie !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! why they saying we have money to spend ??? why they saying we will sign players ??? and they dont make nothing and keep lying to us !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!??!?!?

    • Tim says:

      Let’s clear up a few things here.

      There are two parties in any negotiation, and the worst possible deal you can end up with is to accept the first offer. At the start of July, Barca’s offer was a woeful £29m, so waiting 6 weeks has improved what we will receive for Cesc by about the value of Gael Clichy. That’s the point of negotiating. Downside: it leaves us compromised for the first couple of weeks of the season. Upside: we have more cash to spend.

      Take Wenger’s words in Friday’s press conference with a pinch of salt. He didn’t want to five anything away, and admitting the Cesc deal was all but done would have led to every question being about transfers. Dead-batting a response killed that line of questioning. Also, he is hardly going to say that we’re chasing 5 players and undermine the confidence of the squad for Newcastle, was he? It’s not just fans who hear the manager’s words – the players do too.

      Do we need to replace Clichy? People panicked after Silvinho left and he promoted Cole. People panicked when Cole left and he promoted Clichy. There are much more pressing needs than LB.

      You want to discard Rosicky and Arshavin? Rosicky cannot score and is injury-plagued, but still has class and experience and can contribute more as a squad player than, say, Diaby. And Arshavin is frustratingly lazy, but he is also a big contributor and a game-changer. They’re not future stars, but personally I’m happier with them than without them. Every squad needs depth off the bench, and Arshavin could profit by being moved inside.

      You want Wenger to spend money? He has two weeks still to do that, and he has also bought Gervinho, Campbell, Jenkinson and Oxlade-Chamberlain. They may not be the experience stars/CBs we want, but he has certainly spent money and I wouldn’t judge his transfer activity until the window has closed.

      You really hope that we will finish 6th in the league? Really?!? And by all means suggest that Wenger’s time is past. That’s easy to do. Who would you replace him with who will do better? That’s more difficult. I’d be interested to hear who you have in mind who will do a better job. Anyone can point out the problems. What we need are solutions.

  3. ameed says:

    mr.tim !! first of all , i didnt say just sell arshavin and rosicky and thats it..no and nooo!! i said we should replace them with a better “squad” players !!! come on man , rosicky , arshavin , chamakh , giibs , traore and squillaci didnt win us games against championship sides ( fa cup against leyton orient , and carling cup away against ipswich )…wenger played them all , and they did manage to beat A CHAMPIONSHIP SIDE AND LEAGUE 1 SIDE !!!! i dont want just to have a big squad with NO quality !!!! imagine these players will play against manu , chelsea , barca or real..it would be really embarresing then….!!! u have to understand my point !!!
    second thing , ok; in cesc case maybe barca wanted him cheap and so on , HOW ABOUT nasri case ?? man city offered 22million pounds in the first week of july , and maximum they will bid 25 million pound at the end !!! why until this moment nasri’s case didnt sort out ??? the case is simple : wenger should ask nasri , i have this final contract for u , do u want to sign or not !!! simple !!!! if he got the answer in july , we would have juan mata already in july for 15-17 million pounds( his release clause – which now expired and it is 30+ ) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    why im saying wenger lost at all , ok..lemme explain my opinion !!! when nasri got snubbed from the french national team for the world cup , why wnger didnt back then signed nasri on a new contract extension , while he was heart broken ??? it was the best moment to do this , in order to avoid what happening just now days !!! second thing , why he still didnt replace flop players ( squillaci and co ) and players already left ( clichy…) ?!?!?! what he waiting for ??? another important thing… man , arsenal has a big big problems in defense , not just the quality of defenders and their height , there is a bigger problem than this occuring for more than 2 seasons !! that the team as a whole team , doesn’t defend as a unity , like manu , chelsea AND SPECIALLY BARCA !! this whay i call tactic problem !!! plus , when the opponent has a free kick lets say 30 yards from the keeper , and they just want to cross it in , WHY THE HELL AND WHY THE FUCK THE TEAM CAN’T TILL NOW DEFEND THIS EASY TASK , WHY THEY ALL GO BACK TO THE PENALTY AREA AND ARE VERY VERY VERY CLOSE TO THE GOALKEEPER ??? so any flick to tha ball , and there is no chance for the keeper to react !!! look again at how barca defended with their smaller players than our team against manunited in the champions league final , when manu had a free kick , when rooney wanted to cross !!! and look how we defended against tottenham’s goal ( kabol ) in the final minute !!! absolutely shocking…!!!! dont tell me pls this is not a manager and tactics problems !!!!
    also wenger has NO plan “B” !!! how come he using nicklas bendtner as a winger !?!?!? he is such a heavy , tallll guy which CAN’T play wide , this guy meant to be in the center as a striker !!!! why this happening in this team ?!?!?!
    finally , when im saying that wenger should be replaced , i mean , i want a new spirit at the team , a new ideas , tactics , leaders and so……..and when im saying i want a new players , i mean a quality players , not under 20 years old , we have enough of them , we need to mix them up with experience players ( but not finished and injury prone players like rosicky , and lazy players like bendtner and arshavin nor shittttt players like denilson , squillaci and almunia ) !!! plus , we need leaders at the team , english players as well !!! the best idea in my opinion is : bring GUUS HIDDINK AS A NEW MANAGER , AND DENNIS BERGKAMP PLUS KEOWON//ADAMS AS HIS NEW ASSISTANTS !!!! ( bergkamp will help for the attacking players , like van persie and co , and adams-mr.arsenal himself to put tactics for the defense , and to help organise the defense with his experience ) and i think if we offer them they wont turn it down , they will be happy to work with a world class manager like guus hiddink plus with decent wages to them ) !!! and for wenger , he should work at arsenal in the board and as a scout !! plus bring back david dean , this guy know exactly how to buy players !!!!
    and for the players : in my opinion , after cesc left us , is better to move for 4-4-2 formation , and with cesc fee , i can bring a really quality striker ( like rademel falcaue or cavani ) and a class winger as well ( juan mata ) !!! so we can have 4 quality strikers ( rvp , new striker , gervinho , chamakh/vela) and a 4 quality winger ( 2 in the left and 2 on the right side )…on the right , walcott and nasri ( if nasri sold , with his 25 m.p u can bring hazard ) , and on the left side u can have juan mata and a new left winger as well after we will sell arshavin and rosicky ( i want a winger which capable to do both attacking play and tracking back to help the full back as well – i wanted so badlyyyy ashley young , but what u can do when u have wenger ) !!!!! if u notice , even after all this changes for the attack , i didnt spend even 10 m.p – coz we got the money after we sold our players !!! for the defence , simple…squillaci out—cahill in….clichy already out , aly cissokho from ;yon would be perfect…and i would bring scott parker for our midfield , to add experience and steel and power and english style there !!! he would help wilshere and ramsey a lotttt !!!!
    thanks for reading this big message from a sad and hurt arsenal fan !!!! but i really hope something will happen in these 2 weeks and not just talks and promises and lying to the loyal fans from wenger , fazidis and hill wood….really hope…cause enough is enough !!!!!!
    thanx and take care mate 😉

    • Tim says:

      I understand you’re hurting – we all are – but real life is never quite as simple as we would like it to be. Let me just answer a couple of your points.

      Nasri. There are three parties involved in any transfer, the two clubs and the player (and his agent). I’m not always 100% behind the board’s tactics on transfers, but I am on this occasion. They have made it clear Nasri is available and they have named their price. It is up to the buying club to meet that valuation (or negotiate accordingly) and for the player to not make unreasonable demands. Nasri has strung us along for the past year saying he will sort out his contract, then demanded double what we offered him on the basis of 3-4 excellent months in 3 years. Get real. Get rid. Clichy left with class. Nasri has handled the whole affair with a complete lack of class.

      Mata. Just because his release clause is 30 million doesn’t mean we will need to spend 30 million to buy him. Should Wenger still be interested – and I would take his denial last week with a pinch of salt – I suspect somewhere in the low-20s will be enough. Yes, we could have got him a bit cheaper. But who’s to say he’s our primary target anyway? I wouldn’t believe what the media say.

      As for coaches, Hiddink is a great manager but he won’t come to us. Bergkamp is a definite future possibility, but he is on his own development curve at Ajax and now is too early even to come to us as an assistant. Adams has said he wants to be a manager, not an assistant. Besides, we don’t need Adams as a defensive coach – all we would need to do is promote Steve Bould into that role.

      Finally, I would just caution against wholesale changes. That never works. It takes time for new managers and players to bed in. Continuity is important. Just look at last night’s game. Right side: Sagna & Walcott – a well-established partnership with a good understanding, and very dangerous. Left side: Gibbs & Gervinho – arguably just as much talent, but no understanding with their teammates. Which flank were we more effective on? Gervinho looks like he will be great, but he will need at least a couple of months before he is firing on all cylinders. It was the same with Pires, Bergkamp & Henry. Now imagine how difficult it would be with a whole load of new starters & squad players. I’d love to get rid of Squillaci and one or two others, but no more than that. And we have to find someone willing to buy them too …

  4. ameed says:

    mate , u didnt answer my other important points…the manager errors in tactics specially in defense ( set pieces ) and the like of nick bendtner to be used as winger !!! and there is no plan “B” as well !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    as for the last night game…what the hell chamakh was doing up front ??!!?!?!? he meant to be a strikerrrrrrrr……….adebayor worthy 3 times at least better than him !!!! but the reason this happening is that chamakh we can get him for free , and ade we sold him for 25m.p !!!! this wenger mentality !! damn helllllllllll !!! cheap – cheap and cheappppp !!!! even it is crap – crap crap !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    look what i mean that we DO need a proper left back !!! yesterday game , gibbs was always out of position , he like just to attack and attack , he forgot he first duty meant to be D-e-f-e-n-s-e !!! he is more like a left winger for me , no chance a left back !!! look how many times he was caught out of position which led other players from our like song and vermaelen to be also out of position in order to cover him !!!! why the hell there is no1 out there to grab him from his collar and to tell him , get the fuck back to ur left back position !! cause we have a clown called wenger !!! plus he is injury prone , yesterday he had a hamstring , same old stories specially for this player , never fit for 3 games in a row..N-E-V-E-R !!! why the hell we should rely on an injury and mistake prone player and also immature in such a crucial position and in such crucial season for this club future ?!?!?! why the tight cunt doesnt want to buy a new left back !!!??? oh btw , why he said we want to keep clichy while he had also gibbs , traore and vermalen can play there as well ?!??!!? this show how weak and poor this person became !!!! look at the sun headlines , showing wenger exactly and spot on like mister bean at the club…doesnt know what to do and exactly like a clown !!! really shameeee !!!!
    oh ,and how about rosicky yesterday , really shockinggg display !!! the guy is finished longgggg time ago after his nasty injury , never came back to his quality and fitness as it meant to be !!!! and its better to stop joke our self by saying that ramsey capable to replace cesc , he is 10 years behind cesc in everything !!! typical over-rated british player…simple !!!!!
    concerning dennis bergkamp , if he agreed to be assistant at ajax , i dont have even 0.1% doubt that he would want to come to arsenal if they pay him well….and i said in the other hand , the second assistant to be adams or koewon ( our 2 legends in the our back4 ) !!! if not adams , then koewon wont refuse it !!! he like this club !!! AND WHY THE HELL OUR LEGEND PATRICK VIEIRA AT MANSHITYY AND NOT AT ARSENAL !?!?!?!?!?!? ANY EXPLANATION EXCEPT PAYMENT PLS ?!?!?!!??!!?!!!!!!!!!!!
    really sad what going on at this club , AND YES , WENGER AND THE BROAD TO BLAME !!!! cause if u wanna change , u have to change in ur self first , ur stubborness , ur stingy attitude , ur arrogant and lying attitude as well !!!! and start to act quickly adn plash some ach on quality players , before u say ” i believe and i believe…and overall we showed character and these bullshits !!!
    if kronke doesnt help , why we brought him at the first place and not usmanov , who is willing to splash some extra cash from his own money to help this team ?!!?!?!?!?!?!?
    thanx again for reading my points……….!!!!!!!! take care mate 🙂

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