There’s very few midfielders in the world who can honestly claim that they’ve either been as good as Xavi Hernandez was in his prime, or are destined to emulate him.
Barcelona’s tiki-taka general is not only a player whose status as one of the game's all-time greats is already set in stone, but many deem him to be perhaps the most accomplished passer of the ball who ever set foot on the pitch. Not only that but he was also arguably the most crucial component of Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Catalan machine - barring perhaps Lionel Messi - and has a footballing pedigree to match the very best of them.
Put simply - he’s an incredibly tough act to follow.
It’s no wonder then that Francesc Fabregas has struggled to fit in, and subsequently thrive, in the role of understudy to the Spanish great. Though the 27-year-old’s prosperous sabbatical in England allowed him to develop and mature to the point where he had realised most of his classy potential, the switch back to his boyhood club hasn’t been nearly as so paved with gold as he might have hoped.
Despite reversing his decision to swap the Nou Camp for north London in 2011, Fabregas has struggled to establish himself to the same extent as he did under Arsene Wenger, and it’s still very much the trio of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets who are considered the go-to-guys in Barca’s midfield. A cynic might go as far as stating that the former Arsenal skipper has proved that he doesn’t have what it takes to pick up the mantle when Xavi sets it down - as rumour has it he was being groomed to do.
Alas, the wicked and wild transfer fire was inevitably lit and now, heading into this summer’s transfer window, Fabregas finds himself being linked with a host of Premier League giants including Manchester United and Arsenal. History would advise that you take such rumours with a pinch of salt, but the shake-up set to be undertaken at Old Trafford in the coming months doesn’t allow for consultation of what’s gone on in years gone by.
However whilst it may be true that a Fabregas to United move is far more feasible than it was during the first few weeks of David Moyes’ reign - when they last tried to sign him - that doesn’t mean that the Spain international should consent to a move. In fact, allow me to refine; he’d be mad to take up such an offer.
Unless his current club are practically kicking him out the exit door then Fabregas’ first priority should be to ensure that he’s in the prime position to fill the inevitable void that will be left when Xavi retires. When playing styles, footballing education and overall technique are taken into account there is no one more suited to continuing the 34-year-old’s work when he’s no longer up to the task.
At the Nou Camp he has the chance to etch himself into the club’s history as the latest in a long line of prodigal academy prospects who have gathered experience before applying their talents for the good of the team which gave them their first shot in football.
United pose an incredible risk-factor for a player of Fabregas’ calibre at the moment, as in truth their fortunes could just as easily continue to plummet unless they manage to get things back on track first time. At Arsenal he could return to heroes welcome, but given the fact that he left them to complete his ‘dream’ return to Catalonia you would bank on it being preferable on a personal level that he forges success in Spain rather than at the Emirates.
Should Fabregas ditch Barcelona for United or Arsenal? Or should he wait for Xavi to retire and become the lynchpin of the team? Comment in the box provided below...