There’s nothing more that football fans love, than drama.
In last week’s fixture between the league leaders and the team in third place, much was made beforehand of the tactical aspects of both teams, how one side would adapt to the other, how each manager would approach the game, and so on. It was treated as a football match.
In this week’s match, between the league leaders and the team in second place, no such discussions are taking place. Instead, it’s being treated as a soap opera. This isn’t Super Sunday or Match of the Day. It’s Coronation Cesc. EastCescers. Home and A-Cesc.
I have but one question.
It’s been almost four years since his departure, yet Arsenal fans are still torn on how to react to seeing Cesc Fabregas in another club’s jersey. Some have reluctantly accepted that he left, others feel let down to the point of dismay that he even considered playing for another English club. This is totally understandable, we all view football through our own unique prism, with our own values and expectations dictating what we expect to see from the football club we support, and in turn, the players who play for them.
So when something hugely impactful happens, such as the best player at the club deciding to leave just as he enters the prime of his career for example, it’s only natural that fans are going to have wildly different opinions on how to treat that player in the future. The problem that arises here though, is that whilst the player that fans are arguing about is named Cesc Fabregas, they aren’t arguing about the same player.
There are three Cesc Fabregases, all rolled up into one large ball of drama.
Depending on your point of view, you see him as one of the following:
A: ARSENAL CESC
Saturday 31st October 2009. Andy Gray hadn’t even finished summarising how we’d scored our first goal against Tottenham, before Cesc had nicked the ball, beaten three tackles and scored again. That was the moment that we knew for sure that he was going to be something special. Not just good, but great. Then there’s this:
Playing against the team that he supported as a kid, against the club that nurtured him as a footballer until he moved to England, against the manager whom he idolised as a child, he breaks his leg whilst scoring against them. It was the action of a man who desperately wanted Arsenal to succeed, just as much as fans did.
This is the Cesc that some fans see today, this is the Cesc that is on the banner on the Ken Friar bridge. It’s an embodiment of the memory of how well he played for us whilst he wore our colours.
B: BARCELONA CESC
Sunday 22nd May 2011. Sebastian Vettel won the Spanish Grand Prix in front of 77,999 people who Arsenal fans couldn’t care less about, and one person who they cared greatly about. In reality, it didn’t matter where Cesc was that day. It only mattered where he wasn’t, which was at Craven Cottage with the rest of the team on the last day of the season. News that Steven Gerrard had spent the last day of Liverpool’s season sitting amongst the away fans in Villa Park only provoked more fury.
Was Cesc’s departure unseemly? Yes. Was it the correct way to treat a club that had helped him grow from a promising teenager into the best young midfielder in the world? Absolutely not.
But was there any other way he could have done it? If you think he should never have left in the first place, then that’s fine, but you have to put into context the huge emotional stress that he would have been under at that time.
This wasn’t any club tapping him up, this was his club, the same way in which Arsenal is your club. This wasn’t any manager asking him to come play for him, this was Pep Guardiola, the man who he had based his game on as a child and had worn his number as an adult. Then he was told that he had to get Arsenal’s asking price down because Barca had just bought Alexis Sanchez and money was tight.
That must have just stunk. Imagine being offered the chance to make your childhood dream come true, but it would come at the cost of sacrificing the relationship with someone who was instrumental in your development as both a professional and as a man.
Would I have done the same thing? I have no idea. But no matter what Cesc did, he was going to lose. Either he loses the chance to play for Pep, or he loses his legacy at Arsenal.
He chose to go home. He shouldn’t be faulted for that. If you’re upset at the manner in which his exit was orchestrated, then that’s more of a problem with football as a whole and how contracts are becoming increasing meaningless, not with him. He didn’t build the road, he just walked down it.
C: CHELSEA CESC
Thursday 12th June 2014. We all know where we were when we saw that photo of Cesc, holding a Chelsea shirt in a hotel room. My heart sank into the pit of my stomach when I saw that. My first reaction was that of someone who had just seen an ex-partner in a bar, cuddling in the corner with a bloke who had just bought their car with what turned out to be counterfeit money.
“REALLY?! You want to be seen associated with THAT?!”
But the above simile isn’t entirely accurate. Arsenal are indeed the jilted lover described above, but we jilted ourselves. We had the chance to take Cesc back, and we declined. Whether that was the right decision or not will be argued ad finitum, but the fact remains that it was Cesc that wanted us to take him back, not the other way around.
So once Barcelona tell him he can leave, and Arsenal tell him ‘thanks but no thanks‘, what should be his thought process be, other than ‘Well, I have a girlfriend and a kid who still live in London. I want to be closer to them.’? That would be my first priority in that situation, getting back home with my family.
So when the only other London club that plays in the Champions League on a regular basis calls him, and tells him that he can play for them, in his preferred position, for twice what he was earning at the time, the idea that he should turn that down as a mark of respect for a club that has just told him that he’s not needed there, is ludicrous.
We moved on, we can’t fault him if he decides to do the same.
So when he turns up at the Emirates on Sunday, consider which Cesc you see before you react.
If you see Arsenal Cesc, applaud him. He deserves it.
If you see Barcelona Cesc, applaud him for what he did before as Arsenal Cesc. You’re an Arsenal fan. You’re supposed to be classy like that.
If you see Chelsea Cesc, then you have two options: Either boo him because he plays for Chelsea in the same way you boo everyone who plays for Chelsea, don’t single him out for special attention he doesn’t call for. Or, you can applaud him for what he did as Arsenal Cesc.
Whichever Cesc you see, always remember one thing: As Tony Adams said, ‘Play for the name on the front of the shirt, and they’ll remember the name on the back.’.
You may not like what you see now, but don’t let that cloud what you saw before.
On Sunday, we should show how much we respect him for what he did for us, and we should also show him why we think we don’t need him any more.