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Tapping up, Cesc Fabregas and what’s happening this summer

Tapping up, Cesc Fabregas and what’s happening this summer

By Phil Gregory

With Barcelona’s pursuit of Cesc Fabregas  never out of the news (largely thanks to the rent-a-quote that is Xavi Hernandez)  Gunners worldwide have been getting more than a little annoyed and anger at “tapping up” is commonplace.

The Ashley Cole saga is surely the best-known tapping up case, with Cole’s agent banned for nine months with another nine suspended and Chelsea FC fined £300,000. Both Mourinho and Cole got fined £75,000, -probably less than a week’s wages – with a suspended three point deduction more like to have raised concern.

So what did Chelsea do to get charged and yet Barca can brazenly flutter their eyelashes through the media and not be pulled up on it?

Well, tapping up is making an illegal approach for a player under contract. Referring to rule K6 “a contract player, either by himself or by an person on his behalf, shall not either directly or indirectly make any such approach… without having obtained the prior written consent of his club”.

Chelsea were caught with Cole whereas Barcelona haven’t technically made an approach. Xavi and Pique may have quite  a bit to say, but they haven’t yet mentioned contract terms in any of their lovely little media soundbites.

As Arsenal found out a couple of years ago, it gets trickier for both the authorities and the accusatory clubs  when you suspect a player has met officials, but haven’t got proof of a meet or what exactly they talked about.  Hleb and his agent apparently “went for an ice cream” while in Milan for the San Siro clash in the Champions league a couple of seasons back, which didn’t tally with what Wenger suspected. Our boss believed they were off to meet Inter Milan and discuss a deal but it was simply Arsene’s suspicions versus Hleb’s word .

The goal-shy attacking midfielder left for Barcelona that very summer and we got Samir Nasri in to replace him so it doesn’t always end badly, but the principle no doubt stung Wenger. If it were Fabregas , Van Persie or Wilshere who got their heads turned after a covert meeting would they be so easily replaceable?

Which brings us to Barcelona and Cesc Fabregas. By the definition of tapping up, Barcelona aren’t doing anything illegal as there is no evidence they have made a proposal to the player. While you don’t have to be a big cynic to suspect that their unprecedented efforts to sign the Catalan – which culminated in two unsuccessful bids being made – were probably helped with a backdrop of sweet nothings in his ear during Spain’s victorious World Cup campaign., there’s no evidence of any rules being broken.

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Until we have more than suspicions to act on, we’ll have to content ourselves with beating them in the Champions League on a fraction of their budget and pinching their top academy starlets.

The reasons Barcelona  are attempting to unsettle Cesc are fairly evident. A player of Fabregas’ age and ability is always going to move for an absolute minimum of £40m and given his contract last summer had five years to run,  there was no pressure on Arsenal to sell before he can leave on a free. Even the coming summer he would still have four years left to run, so any fee has to come into the £40-£60m range given his level of performance.

The issue that Barcelona  are struggling to overcome is that we simply don’t need their money. Last summer they didn’t offer enough to tempt us but why would Arsenal take an offer even of £60m+ when we have record amounts of cash in the bank? That’s not going to change over the current season (especially if we keep getting so many cup replays!) so I genuinely cannot see why Arsenal would feel a need to cash in. Sure, if the squad was struggling then Wenger may be tempted to cash in for an overhaul but we’d struggle to get a better player than Fabregas for that sort of money, so why part with him in the first place?

There is of course a good argument that Barcelona couldn’t even find £60m, which is highly valid. Even without doing a full analysis of their latest accounts I’m confident that they don’t have £60m to spare and UEFA’s Financial Fair Play means they can’t afford more losses in the coming financial years. Their record sponsorship deal with Qatar might have helped them out in this regard, but any club needing a bridging loan to pay wages surely can’t have huge amounts of cash profits in accounts just begging to be spent.

That said, nothing about Barcelona’s finances is rational, or indeed, the finances of the entire nation of Spain for that matter. Despite their government struggling to cut their budget deficit amid a mind-boggling level of unemployment for a developed nation I genuinely wouldn’t be surprised if one of the Spanish financial institutions lent them money.

It would be a fairly daft loan to make, and I highly doubt the interest charge would accurately reflect the risks involved, but it would be a foolish person who bet against the capacity of the Spanish banking sector to make a dodgy bet.

The situation is further complicated given the ties of Barcelona’s President and the membership situation of the club, which would potentially allow  them a degree of influence over a local financial institution. A loan like this would solve the issue of not having the cash to spend, but wages and amortisation of the transfer fee would still be charged to the club accounts which aren’t exactly in the best condition given the arrival of Financial Fair Play. Yet Barcelona might just be daft enough to want to do the deal anyway.

There are only two ways I can see Fabregas leaving the club this summer. One, he forces an exit (Wenger doesn’t like keeping unhappy players) and the club secure a fee of £40-£60m in line with his value. This isn’t in line with how he has acted up to this point so seems unlikely, he recognises he owes a debt to Wenger and freely admits he sees him as a father figure.

Two, Wenger feels he can replace Fabregas by shuffling his current squad and adding another offensive player, meaning the squad improves despite Cesc’s departure. Such a decision may be taken with concerns over his injury record in mind. Arsène is all about value however, and if he had just banked a £60m fee there is no way he is going to be quoted realistic fees for any summer transfer targets. I suspect he’d get around this situation by bringing in his main target early, prior to sanctioning Cesc’s departure. I don’t foresee a like-for-like replacement coming in and certainly not for big money.

The most likely situation is that he’d replace Cesc with someone like Nasri moving into the centre, and bring in another wide attacker to compete with Arshavin and Theo. Nasri has shown he can play the role and I just cannot see Wenger buying a replacement for a role as key as central playmaker from abroad, given the necessary adaptation to English football.

The presence of players like Ramsey waiting in the wings make a big new signing unnecessary. Someone like Wilshere could be  moved forward as an alternative to Nasri too, with additional defensive cover secured to fill the gap at the back. Either way, the squad we have covers Cesc’s absence and a signing is brought in to cover the reshuffling of the squad.

This second situation is the one that I suspect is the more likely to happen, given Cesc’s injury troubles this season. It’d be the perfect time to cash in, before he gets the “injury prone” label and his value drops off.

I’m in two minds as to what I’d think if he did leave. On the one hand, his injury troubles concern me, and I think we’d be stronger given the situation outlined above. On the other hand, my girlfriend’s step-dad is convinced he’s going to leave and we had a heated discussion on the subject (he’s a Liverpool fan, so he’s seen the defections of Alonso, Torres and Mascherano so I suspect he’s predisposed towards thinking players will cut and run). Naturally I don’t fancy my next trip to their house if indeed he does depart, though a Premier League title and Liverpool missing out on Europe should be sufficient defence for me I suspect!

In the near future I’m going to have a look at international tapping up, the Kakuta case and youth transfers so expect a follow-up article at some point.

18 comments to Tapping up, Cesc Fabregas and what’s happening this summer

  • RedGooner

    Personaly I wouldnt let anyone leave …..I would make Cesc play out his contract and leave on a freebie if necessary.
    I am tired of the flaminis Helbs etc interupting our team building year in year out. Its detrimental we need to keep them now until they win something erm lots of somethings toooooo much hard work has gone into this project to let them bugger of when it suits them after all we gave them.

  • Ron

    It maybe the unknown but i have a feeling Fab will leave us this summer. Yes we have players to replace him, not quite on his talent level but relatively well.

    The squad needs a defender, a GK, a defensive midfield better than song, and a quality striker.

    If we do sell squillachi, bendtner,almunia, and cesc for £30 + bojan or mascherano…i can see a deal happen.

    mascherano has been a 17 million pound substitute for them and he’s not played well. Bojan has been unhappy and may take us as a exit route.

    that being said, the player i hope wenger brings along is hazard, and a defensive strongman. The GK solution can be better but scz has proven he is quality.

  • Byo

    I am always skeptical when calls are made for players new to the EPL., because it takes a while to settle in(more so for strikers). So as good as Hazard may be, we may not get the best out of him in his first season.

    However, I believe Wenger will tweak this squad in the summer. We have players on the fringe of the first team who will be ready, and I want to believe there are some gems out there we never heard about.

    If one was to ask me, I will want a defender like Vertonghen- he just looks like a fighter every time I’ve seen him play, and he’s versatile. But I put my absolute trust in Wenger, who has always proved very astute in his transfer dealings.

  • Paul C.

    I can actually see Arsenal and Barcelona coming to an agreement this summer, but NOT for Cesc to leave this year. Cesc still has multiple years on his contract and would still cost upwards of 40m (minimum) right now. Xavi is still in his prime. Instead, Barca could come to an agreement for Cesc to leave in the summer of 2012 at an agreed (and lower) price. Cesc would play a final year at Arsenal and then depart. What would this do?

    1. Remove all the “will-he-wont-he” stuff from the media. We could actually have a quiet summer.
    2. Give Cesc the assurance that Arsenal were indeed letting him fulfill his dream, thus ensuring that he would want to go out on a high, and lead us to as many glories as possible in his final year.
    3. Give Wilshire, Ramsey and the other young midfielders an extra year to mature before they are expected to be the “man”.
    4. Give Arsenal a full year to scout for replacements.

    Liverpool did this with Ian Rush to Juve many years ago. It can work.

  • Phil

    Not a bad suggestion Paul, though I wonder whether it’d be legally binding. I mean, if Cesc broke his leg, could Barca back out?

    I also believe Cesc wouldn’t struggle to usurp Xavi/Iniesta in the Barca side tomorrow if he tranferred. Opta stated that he is the most creative midfielder in Europe and he has plenty of goals to his game.

  • gooner80

    Hey Phil

    I agree with your fears about cesc’s hamstring problem. I think cesc could get in their team now he is that good, all it would mean is that there is a fair amount of rotation between him Xavi and inesta.

    the only way barca can afford cesc is in installments, I think there should be a buy back option clause in his contract where we get first refusal plus cesc should have a small buy out clause in his contract so if he is unhappy and wants to come back he can for a reasonable amount, the barca situation is something that is going to be there until cesc tries it.

    I am little worried by Nasri

  • FinnGooner

    I kind of like what Ivan Gazidis said in free video on “The important thing, and I emphasise this every time we speak about our results, is that it’s not about profits for Arsenal Football Club. The currency that we evaluate ourselves with is pride, the pride that we create among our fan base”. So we don’t need Barca’s money (that they don’t have).

    I don’t want to see Cesc leave next summer nor do I want to hear that there is deal that Cesc would leave following summer as that was what some people told me last year (that there were a deal for 1 more year).

  • Abhishek Kumar

    I am pretty sure that Arsene would never sign a forward agreement..Arsene put him on record last year and said that he would never sell his player a year before and still keep him in his team (like C Ronaldo).. So either he will sell him totally or keep him.. I guess he will be sold one year before his contract ends.. thus ensuring we get some good money as well as a good amount of his service (also he will nurture someone to replace him)..

  • eve

    you speak of cesc like he is a commodity, i know the job of clubs is to buy players, get what use they can and then sell them at a profit, hopfully,but im sorry cesc is not one of these, arsene should be doing everything he can to keep this unbelievable talent with us, he has grown with arsenal, the fans have watched the boy grow into a very inteligent man,our captain,leader and hero, saving us time and again, we love him, he knows this, and how heartbreaking it would be for us if he should go. i believe that arsenal and the fans should do everything in their power to persuade him to stay.

  • Paul C.

    eve – your sentiment is beautiful, but ultimately Cesc IS a commodity. A very valuable one, but a commodity none the less. And he knows it, all players know it. They know they would replaced in a second if they were not doing the goods. They have a limited career in which they have to maximize their earnings and play where they want.

    No matter how much we love Cesc and want him to stay, it will ultimately be the decision of him and the club. If there comes a point where he simply says “I want to go home, end of statement”, then there is nothing we can do to stop him leaving.

    Never get too attached to players. They come and go. The club remains forever.

  • Simon Bailey

    Interesting piece Phil. One of my best mates is a feyenood supporter, and at the moment he giving me a right slagging because we have just signed another on of their youngsters. Feyenoord are totally skint at the moment, and the dutch dont allow their teams to be in debt, so at the moment they are a selling club, playing a very young squad and not doing so well in their league. All in the name of sorting out their debt problems ( which are btw miniscule compared to most prem clubs).

    what exactly are the rules on transfers of youth players (under 18)? did we tap their player up or was it a deal done when we lent them Ryo for free? are we innocent in all this or do we play the same games as the rest of them?

  • Simon Bailey

    back on topic!!! as far as cesc is concerned, i personally think that we need him for 2 more years. by then we will have adequate cover, but he will still be a young man when he goes to barca. his injuries do worry me, but i reckon thats more to do with the prem than his fragility.

  • ugandan goon

    the ryo deal was done because the club is indeed looking at their youngsters and ryo couldn’t get a work permit to play in England.
    also the controversy you mention was because we signed one of their youngster for a nominal fee, they’d have liked to hold on to him till they could sell him for a decent price, hardly surprising they raised a stink given their precarious financial situation.
    i think i you watch the video i posted, you will understand how arsenal really do business- with style!

  • walter

    Ugandan goon,
    thanks for the link. Ryo looks like to be one of those players in the dare I say it, hell why not, Ronaldo class. Speed, tricks, close control and he doesn’t shy away from working for the team when needed.
    I noticed that Groningen (who are in the race for a european ticket) were scared of him and tried to have two men in front of him early in the game.
    And since he started playing for them they haven’t lost a game and for Feyenoord not losing a game in 4 games is very rare this season.

  • GoonerTerry

    Great read Phil, Thanks. Ultimately no player is bigger than the club. Cesc will go or he won’t but he’s not the greatest player to have ever played for the Arsenal. We all love him – he so epitomizes everything we Gooners love about our game. But there will be a time when he’ll be surplus to our requirements. Personally I would like him to stay for another three years. I don’t believe that we will need to spend any money for his replacement because I believe that we have excellent players coming through. Next season Frimpong will get in the squad and provide excellent competition for Song’s DM position. That will allow Jack to move forward to play alongside Nasri and Cesc. Ryo, I believe, will come straight into the first team squad and give us a driving, direct dagger into the heart of our opponents defense. I pray that JET matures and come back to take a place in the squat also. It was good to see Miquel and Henderson in the team tonight. There’s a lot more to come. Once we get a critical mass of our youngsters coming into the squad together we will get to “tipping point” and it will be quite apparent to everyone what Wenger’s work for the last 6-years has been about. Arsenal’s Golden Era is just ahead of us…mark my words!

  • Anne

    I don’t know if anyone is still checking this thread, but I’ve actually just turned up some information that is very relevant to this topic that I don’t know if any Arsenal fan has ever seen before. And based on that information, I think that it’s far from clear that Cesc would even be interested in going to Barcelona this Summer. Or that Barcelona would be interested in signing him.

    If anyone is familiar with my previous posts, you’ll know that I’m convinced that 99% of the Fabregas transfer saga from last summer was fabricated by the media. But I never had any way to actually prove it. UNTIL NOW, that is. I’ve been digging and digging, and I’ve finally busted the media on one aspect of the transfer saga. This is going to be a little bit long, so I think I’ll do it in two comments. In this one, I’ll post a list of the relevant articles and explain how I can prove they’re fabricated, and then in the next one, I’ll show you what Cesc really said, and give you some comments from him that you’ve probably never heard before.

    The part of the transfer saga that I can now disprove is the part from May, 2010 where Cesc allegedly made a public statement saying that he wanted to go back to Barcelona. Here’s a survey of some of the articles:

    The Sun – Cesc ready to join Barcelona
    CESC FABREGAS is ready to walk out on Arsenal next week after admitting: I’d love to join Barcelona. The Gunners skipper will decide his future this weekend after crunch talks with boss Arsene Wenger.

    The Daily Mirror – Fabregas: ‘I want to go to Barcelona’
    Cesc Fabregas wants a decision on his future before the World Cup after admitting he wants to return to Barcelona.

    The Daily Mail – Cesc Fabregas alerts Barcelona as star admits he’ll decide on Arsenal future before the World Cup
    Arsenal fans face an anxious wait after Cesc Fabregas revealed he is considering his future at the north London club, and would come to a decision before the start of the World Cup.

    CESC Fabregas has stunned Arsenal by admitting he is considering his future and could quit for Barcelona before the start of the World Cup.

    The Times – Cesc Fàbregas sends out signals about possibility of move to Barcelona
    Cesc Fàbregas appeared to open the door for a move to Barcelona last night after saying that he wants his future at Arsenal to be resolved before the World Cup finals. The Spain midfield player said that, should he leave Arsenal, he would consider a return only to the Catalan club.

    The Independent – Fabregas admits desire to play for Barça and wants future ‘sorted’
    If Cesc fabregas is trying to break it to Arsenal fans gently that he wants to leave them this summer, then yesterday’s declaration that his next club will definitely be Barcelona can be seen as another big step on the road back to Spain.

    There are literaly thousands upon thousands of articles making these claims, but the list above should give you a general idea.

    Ok, on to how I can prove that they’re fake. The reason it’s been so hard to disprove any aspects of the transfer saga is that it’s almost impossible to find the original sources for any of the statements or quotes that the media has been printing. Most of the time, there’s no source provided at all, and even when there is, you can bet that it won’t be anything that you can trace to check the validity of the quotes. Even on the rare occasions when the media provides video of the press conference where they got the quotes, they’ll heavily edit it so that you can’t see the quotes in context.

    The press conference where these particular statements by Cesc were allegedly made was part of a promotional appearance by Cesc at Port Aventura amusement park in Barcelona on May 13, 2010. And true to form, despite the extensive coverage in both the English and Spanish medias, no media outlet in either country published a full video or transcript of the entire conference (even though it was only 15 minutes long). However, luckily for us, nobody bothered to tell Port Aventura park about the media blackout.

    Their promotions department posted all of their videos from the appearance on their website, and right there next to the video of Cesc on the roller coaster, I found the unedited video of the entire press conference. And what that means is that we can now fact check every single article that reported on Cesc’s comments. And from what I’ve done so far, I can definitely see why they didn’t want us to be able to do that. I’ve probably translated less than a quarter of the video, and I can already completely debunk every single one of the articles above. There are some parts of them that are just wildly exaggerated and taken out of context, as opposed to being outright fabrications, but none of them accurately represents what Cesc actually said. More on that in the next post.

  • Anne

    “I have never considered leaving Arsenal. Never, at any moment. There have always been speculations, there have always been rumors, but if I haven’t left Arsenal it’s because I haven’t wanted to, because I’m very happy.” -Cesc Fabregas, May 13, 2010

    “I am an Arsenal player and I don’t think about anything else. I’m not going to say no to anybody, nor am I going to say yes to anybody. I did not say that I was going to leave Arsenal to go to Barcelona, because equally Barcelona doesn’t want me.”
    -Cesc Fabregas, May 15, 2010 (refuting media reports of May 13 interview)

    I thought some Gooners might enjoy seeing the above quotes 🙂 Before I get to the rest of the statements, I’ll give you some general observations. First, what happened at the press conference was very unfair to Cesc, because the journalists there had a predetermined agenda. The whole story that emerged had been written before Cesc even said a word. El Mundo Deportivo (Barcelona tabloid) actually published it a day in advance. They had the whole story about Cesc wanting to come to Barcelona, wanting it resolved before the World Cup, etc.(attributed to unnamed “friends” of Cesc).

    After the conference, they came out with the whole “we were right!” line (“Wow, Cesc said exactly what we predicted he would!). Well, no he didn’t. But the clear agenda at the conference was to obtain quotes from Cesc to support a narrative that had already been written. He didn’t have a chance, really, and if you watch the video you’ll feel sorry for him even without understanding Spanish. He’s clearly uncomfortable and under a lot of pressure. Below, I’m just go to go through the interview and quote you the parts that are most relevant to the media coverage. My translations are probably less than perfect in a lot of areas, but if I’m unsure about the general accuracy of a quote, I’ll make a note.

    *In relation to how the English media covered these statements, I want to make it very clear that these questions were not asked in sequence. They were separated by other questions. So any news article that strings quotes from the different answers together and presents them as a single comment is making things up.

    Reporter: Asks Cesc where he would like to be playing next season.

    [long, tense silence before Cesc speaks; attendees muttering]

    “I don’t see it as fair to talk about that. It would show a lack of respect because Barcelona is still playing in La Liga, and I’m a player for Arsenal. I stress this because there have been certain misunderstandings.”

    The following segment of interview arose in the context of recent media reports linking Cesc with Real Madrid and other clubs. In that context, he was basically agreeing that, if he were to leave Arsenal, it would be for Barcelona, and not some other Club.

    Reporter: So “if you leave Arsenal, your destination will be Barcelona?”

    Cesc [looking uncomfortable]: Yes

    Reporter [with more emphasis]: If you leave Arsenal, it would only be to play for Barca?

    Cesc: Yes, definitely. [Catalan crowd breaks into applause at this; Cesc looks uncomfortable, tries to smile, fails]

    Reporter [paraphrased, I really couldn’t hear exactly what he was saying in this question]: Something about leaving for Barca, World Cup… if you’re going to continue as an Arsenal player before the World Cup starts?

    Cesc: “Sure, yes, because all players like to know where they’re going to play next season whenever possible, and I guess I’m no different, and to play the World Cup with something else on your mind doesn’t benefit anybody.”

    Note: As the conference goes on, Cesc starts to show frustration with repeated questions about Barca, and becomes more defensive:

    Reporter: But you said earlier that if you do leave Arsenal, it will be for Barcelona?

    [Cesc grimaces, does not respond]

    Reporter repeats: It’s Barcelona or nothing, right?

    Cesc [visibly irritated]: I’m an Arsenal player. (repeats) I’m an Arsenal player. And the guy asked me, if I was going to leave Arsenal, where I would want to go. I think that I would like to go to Barcelona, of course whether they would want me or not is a different matter, but I’m only 23 years old and I’m planning to have a long career. I’ve never concealed that playing for Barcelona is a dream that I’d like to fulfill SOMEDAY [I added the emphasis, but I think it’s consistent w/ what Cesc meant here].”

    Cesc [finally losing patience]: “I have too many worries [right now] to concentrate on these questions, and my primary concern is to recover from my injury so that I can perform in the World Cup. That is the greatest dream of any professional footballer.”

    Reporter: Journalist asks if he can help facilitate Cesc’s transfer to Barcelona (I think? Something like that?).

    Cesc: “Whatever happens will happen, and all of you will be the first to know about it. But for the time being, when nothing has happened, it’s idiotic to speculate.”

    Reporter: Asks if Cesc has spoken to Arsene Wenger.

    Cesc: Responds that no, he has not spoken to Wenger about all of the things that they have been “cooking up” in the press conference.

    Ok, I think that’s long enough for now. Based on what I’ve given you here, you should be able to go back and look at the media reports and see how they’ve been distorted and fabricated. I’ll close by leaving you with some examples of the most outrageous fabrications that have emerged in the English media, that don’t have ANY basis at all in Cesc’s actual comments:

    “Cesc Fabregas wants a decision on his future before the World Cup after admitting he wants to return to Barcelona.

    He wants manager Arsene Wenger to prove he is serious about winning trophies immediately by splashing cash in the transfer market on proven players – or he will seek a move to his his boyhood club (mirror).”

    “Fabregas…is also concerned about Wenger’s long-term intentions.The Arsenal boss only has a year left on his own contract – and has not yet agreed to carry on after that(Sun).”

    “Cesc was bold yesterday at a press conference in Port Aventura, Tarragona,” and “has admitted envying his former teammates at Barcelona [Tribalfootball].”

    Here’s the interview: (1/3) (2/3) (3/3)