Questions have been asked over Cesc Fabregas’ position in the Barcelona squad since he arrived from Arsenal in 2011.
The Spanish midfielder started his youth career at Mataro before moving to the Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy which has produced the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique in recent years.
He began his career as a holding midfielder, much like Busquets, but only he had an eye for goal – sometimes even scoring over 30 goals for the Barcelona youth team.
Sensing he wasn’t going to have many first-team opportunities, he signed for Arsenal’s academy and at the age of 16, Arsene Wenger gave him the chance to become Arsenal’s youngest ever player.
His true emergence into the Arsenal first team arrived when captain and centre midfielder Patrick Vieira left the club for Juventus. Fabregas took on his number four shirt and also took the roll of being Arsenal’s box-to-box midfielder. From this moment on, Fabregas progressed into becoming Arsenal captain and also one of the best young midfield players in Europe.
This didn’t go unnoticed back at Barcelona. Prior to the beginning of the 2010/2011 season Barca had a bid of around £27 million rejected. Rumours spread fast that Fabregas wanted to go ‘home’ but Wenger stood firm.
Come the following summer, Fabregas’ desperation to go back to Spain increased further and eventually Wenger let the Arsenal captain leave for a deal that went up to £35 million.
The statistics have shown that in the five years prior to him leaving Arsenal, Fabregas created 466 goalscoring chances, made 75 assists and scored 30 goals, all three statistics topping those of new teammates Andres Iniesta and Xavi even though both Barcelona men made more appearances in the same period.
By this time, Barcelona seemed to have a solid midfield three with Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets playing together week-in-week-out. These three players had created an almost telepathic link in their brains that let them know exactly what the other was doing, so Fabregas had a tough challenge to get into the squad straight from the off.
Over his two full seasons so far at the Nou Camp, Fabregas has featured regularly playing in 61 of a possible 77 league fixtures and scoring 20 – more than Xavi, Iniesta or Busquets – which gives him a roundabout average of a goal every three games.
The main worry for Fabregas is that he hasn’t pushed ahead of any of the midfield three, and has often been deployed in one of the three positions along the Barcelona attacking line. Although he has still contributed from this position, Fabregas will see himself as a central midfielder and that’s where he will want to play.
In Barca’s season opener against Levante, Cesc was part of a midfield three alongside Busquests and Xavi. He grabbed this opportunity by the scruff of the neck and put in a performance of the highest quality, finishing with three assists in a flying first half that saw Barcelona head in at the break with a six-goal lead.
He had a couple of chances to score himself, which he may have rued, but overall he played a starring role in new boss Gerardo Martino’s first competitive match in charge this season.
Last season, the 26 year-old was often left out of important matches, and that was probably the reason there were doubts over his future at the club and led Manchester United boss David Moyes to bid to bring the midfielder back to the Premier League.
But if Fabregas keeps plugging away and picking performances of sheer class out of the bag like he did on Sunday, he will definitely be an important member of the Barcelona side this year and may even cement himself a spot in the midfield three.
David Moyes should put his money back in his pockets and look elsewhere, because the defending La Liga champions need Cesc Fabregas in their side if they want to regain their title as the best team in European football this season.
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