14 minutes for Cesc to win his first trophy in six years

It may have been an overly feisty affair, as such has become the custom for El Clasico in recent seasons, but Barcelona’s 3-2 win last over Real Madrid, a 5-4 aggregate victory over their fiercest rivals in the Spanish Super Cup will be remembered by one man in particular; Cesc Fabregas. The former Barca trainee was forced to watch from the bench until the 76th minute with a cameo appearance allowing the former Arsenal captain to make his long awaited debut for the Catalan giants.

The move certainly has been the longest of sagas for Cesc with the deal being so on and off that most fans gave up speculating as to whether it would actually happen. The transfer eventually came to prominence earlier this week as the Spanish international signed on the dotted line and long last. The footballing world breathed a collective sigh of relief after the deal was confirmed on various news sources around the world, at last one of the longest running transfer sagas in recent history had, finally, run its course.

However, for me his move back to Spain has raised a few questions than some would have thought. For example, wouldn’t Cesc have served a better purpose moving to, say, Manchester United? Now, don’t get me wrong, this move would never, ever, ever happen, but in some parallel universe it might, just might, have happened. United are in the market for a midfielder that can defend and attack and as good as Samir Nasri, Wesley Sneijder and Luka Modric are, the 24-year-old is in a league of his own when it comes to the ability of being able to break up play while instigating another.

Now that Paul Scholes has retired, a great loss to the footballing world it is, it would have been relatively simple for Fabregas to step into the great mans role with minimal ease and effortlessly commanded his position in the starting XI for, comfortably, the next decade. I’m not saying United ever had a chance to sign him, far from it in fact, but if Sir Alex Ferguson had the chance to snare him from under the nose of Barcelona, I am sure he would have firmly grasped the opportunity with both hands.

A move to Old Trafford would have granted him similar stature as he had at the Emirates and at least playing time wouldn’t have been hard to come by which leads me to my next point regarding Barcelona, how often will he actually play? It is a known fact that the Blaugrana are a well oiled machine who, when operating in top gear, are unplayable. The basis for any team has to come from a strong midfield and who is stronger than the trio of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets? The starters in the middle of the park for both club and country saw Fabregas benched for the national team and, if the three continue to play like they do for club, there is very little chance that this ménage a trois will be ending anytime soon.

His fee may have been £35m or and his release clause around the 200 million euro mark but why alter a perfectly working midfield? Xavi and Iniesta are undropable. Both work perfectly in tandem with each other and complement each other brilliantly. Busquets has become pivotal to their success, sitting back to protect the back four while often covering the free-roaming, marauding Gerard Pique during his lung busting runs from deep. I doubt Fabregas would be happy to sit back and cover in Busquets’ position and will find it near on impossible to break up Xavi and Iniesta.

As harsh as it is to Fabregas, chances are he may become an expensive bench warmer, often playing against the lesser teams so the much improved Xavi can do the business in the bigger games. Still, the move gives Pep Guardiola immense strength in depth in the midfield especially following the promotion of Thiago Alcantara and it is a credit to the La Masia youth academy that the midfield consists of only youth team products. Yet, some may feel that Fabregas may have already been a starter for Barcelona had he remained in Spain instead of plying his trade with Arsenal.

Yes, as a 16-year-old he may have become Arsenal’s youngest ever first team player and, had he stayed with Barcelona, may not have got the chance to shine for another four or so years but when you look at the likes of Busquets, Pedro and Lionel Messi, all of whom came through the Barca ranks, have all won the Champions League at least once, La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Club World Cup during the time Fabregas has won nothing.

Credit where credit is due however, captaining Arsenal is a major feat on any players’ CV but an accomplishment is shadowed in comparison to winners’ medals. Will Fabregas live to regret leaving Barca at such a young age? Who knows but if the club were willing to splash out over £30m for a player that left them eight years ago, chances are he may have been a major cog in the Barcelona machine had he rejected the overtures of Arsene Wenger and co. and opted to continue his development with the Catalan giants.

Ben McAleer @BenMcAleer1

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