I believe the transfer or non-transfer of Cesc to Barca-loan-us involves three factors, only one of which has anything to do with the simple transfer of a player from one club to another.
Here’s the three parts…
Part One: The simple concept of the transfer. This is easy to deal with: Barca-loan say they want to buy the player and they have made a bid. Arsenal say they don’t want to sell the player, who is under a long term contract, and have rejected the bid. Even supporters of the Tiny Totts can grasp that one, and there’s a rumour that one of the writers in the Sun once understood it too, but then he had one more drink and the idea was lost for all time.
Now onto part two: the Barca-loan obsession with Fàbregas.
At Barca-loan Fàbregas was a youth star playing for Spain’s U17s in the World Championship, where he was named best player and top goalscorer. So how could he be allowed to leave?
The common story is that Fàbregas felt that he would not get any chance in a first team squad packed with stars, so he was looking elsewhere. A second part of the story is that Fàbregas’ parents divorced, and he felt alienated from the city. A third part of the story is that Barca-loan didn’t do enough to keep him – but as we know with young players there is a limit as to what you can do in terms of contracts, and tying players to chairs until they agree is not really what it is all about these days.
Whatever the final reason, Fàbregas left, became a star, and ever since Real Mad supporters have been rubbing Barca-loan supporters’ collective noses in it. “You really must look after your children better!” Ho ho.
So Barca have the Fàbregas obsession. It is not as if they actually need him in a team with big holes in it, and it is not as if there is no one else. They are just obsessed because they lost him in the first place.
But there is a third part to the transfer story – and this is one that is less often mentioned.
Newspapers love to make out that transfers are “Part One” issues – the simple transfer in the classic mould. Arsenal need a new centre forward so we buy Joe Baker – that sort of thing (if you know your Arsenal history).
The reasons newspapers propagate such tales are that a) such tales are easy to understand and so easy to write about (no stretching of the journalist’s or reader’s intellect in such a story) and b) it allows newspapers to pretend that they have inside information about this particular player moving to that particular club.
But if you look at what was circulating in the British newspapers on 14th June 2010 you might wonder if there was something else going on. Here are some of the stories from that single day…
- From Liverpool to Barca-loan: Torres, £70m
- From Liverpool to Chelsea: Benayoun, £6.5m
- From Liverpool to Chelsea: Babel
- From Liverpool to anyone who will take him: Riera
- From Liverpool to anyone who will take him: Degan
- From Liverpool to anyone who will take him: Cavalieri
- From Liverpool to Real Mad or Barca-loan: Gerrard, £40m
- From Liverpool to Inter: Mascherano
- From Liverpool to Inter: Johnson
- From Barca to Man City: Yaya Toure
Now you might notice something of a thread here – that is that quite a few of those players play for Liverpool.
Of course after several years of preaching the fact that journalists make these things up I am not going to suddenly say we must believe the papers, but even by the standards of the gutter press, that is still quite an amazing list since it runs across seven papers.
The fact that everyone in their own way is running a transfer out of Liverpool story (apart from the final journalist who seemed to get a bit confused) is extraordinary. And although many of the tales are bound to be untrue I do think that it is a reflection of what is happening at Liverpool.
And what is happening at Liverpool directly affects the transfer of Cesc, and a lot of other transfers too.
My view, for what it is worth, is that Liverpool is surrounded by the vultures. (Actually Liverpool is always surrounded by vultures, nibbling at the road kill and the drunks, but today I mean it metaphorically).
Liverpool FC is hovering on the edge of a total collapse in the style of Leeds Untidy, with the nickname this site gave them two years ago (Liverpool Insolvency) coming home to roost.
The Chelsea supporting chairman imposed by RBS as a condition of it continuing its loan, and not winding the club up, is there to find a buyer. The current owners are holding out for a ludicrously high price which gives them a profit. The club not only has the debts of which I wrote the other day, it also desperately needs £100m to pay the bank now. (That money is now two months overdue, and the interest on that alone is crippling). The auditors have said that there are grave doubts about the ability of the club to continue trading. The bankers are still furious that the money given for the new ground (“work will start within a month of us taking the club over”) was used for the buyout. The manager has left with £6m in his pocket.
Now I know that the dear little fellow, Redknapp the Lesser, said that the manager had to go because the club didn’t trust him to spend the £35m that they have for transfers, but I think we can pat Redknapp the Lesser on the head (remembering to wipe our hands after) and shuffle on. If RBS saw Liverpool spend money on players they would call in the loan tomorrow.
So, the vultures gather.
But here is where the metaphor breaks down. Vultures tell each other there is dead meat in Liverpool 8 by circling over it. Football clubs looking for a decent player at a sale price tend not to advertise the fact either to other clubs or to the selling club, for fear of upping the price.
Liverpool need to sell, and want the best price. If no one wants to buy, the price sinks, and since Liverpool must sell, the price goes lower.
So leaving aside the two obvious stars in the Liverpool team, clubs are playing it quiet, and keeping their slobbering mouths as shut as they can, pretending that they want to buy someone else. Someone like, oh, I don’t know, hey, how about that Cesc Fàbregas fella. For Barca-loan talking about buying Cesc keeps the supporters happy, feeds the obsession, and detracts from the fact that they might want to bid for Torres and/or Gerrard, or maybe anyone else in the squad.
So the game is played. The real aim is to hold off with the bids until late in the transfer window by which time the chairman and those jolly nice people who run the banks exactly as they have always run them (for their benefit and no one else’s) get edgy. The players must be sold, so the price will slip. Barca-loan will be offering half the asking price, and when it is turned down will be saying, “Oh well, never mind, we are getting Cesc Fàbregas, so it doesn’t matter,” – and Liverpool Sale will get edgier and cut the price.
Of course I don’t have an inside story on what is happening between Arsenal and Barca-loan over Cesc, and I must admit when it came to the sale of Henry I called that wrong (although I did get Vieira right several weeks before the announcement – but it was a total guess). I didn’t see Overmars going for £25m, but I did think Anelka might go (but I got the fee utterly wrong).
So I have a 50/50 track record on predicting the big Wengerian sales. Like Vieira, Henry, Overmars, Anelka he will go at some time, and if he follows the same form as those transfers, his career will not flourish thereafter either through injury or loss of form. Personally I think he will stay until Ramsey or someone else comes along who can fill the gap – but what I think is neither here nor there.
What is here and there is that the key thing for the President of Barca-loan is to make the right noises to the fans, and to detract from the possible deals at Liverpool. In this regard Cesc is just a plaything.
Les Players (Arsenal signings so far this summer)
Want to comment? If you are not fully familiar with this site, you might find it helpful to read a few other articles first. There are some notes about the site and our conversations posted somewhere around here.
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- Arsenal v Lens: the team, the home/away form and the strange coincidences