Last Thursday (21/07/11), FC Barcelona confirmed the signing of Chilean winger Alexis Sanchez from Udinese in a deal worth 26m, rising to 37.5m Euros. Sanchez has been one of the world’s top performers for both club and country over the past two seasons, and his addition to Barcelona’s already formidable attack is frankly quite scary. The front line of Pedro, Messi and Villa combined for approximately 98 goals in all competitions last season. Now they add to this a player with great pace, trickery and the work ethic to press from the front, as Barcelona do so well. Remember playing soccer video games and editing the stats of your players to make them unbeatable? By making this signing, the Catalan club are edging closer to that level of invincibility. And that, perverse as it may seem, is why Cesc Fabregas should not join Sanchez amongst their ranks. Not this summer.
It is well established that Barcelona’s central midfield triangle of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets or Mascherano is the world’s best by some way. Suffice it to say, if Fabregas were to join them, he would not be an immediate starter, but a squad player, coming in when others are injured or in need of rotation. He would likely start between 15 and 25 games in the roughly 60-game season, and make regular substitute appearances. The Arsenal man knows this, and seems to be accepting of it, but it would be a crying shame to see one of the game’s finest players relegated to the bench, especially when approaching his prime.
Further, Barcelona’s virtual invincibility means that there is very little challenge left. Real Madrid strive to catch up to their rivals while the rest of La Liga remain so far in the distance that the Scottish Premier League starts to look competitive in comparison. That Fabregas would be guaranteed to win medals at Barcelona is undeniable, but how much they would mean is debatable. He would not be the driving force behind success himself - Barcelona clearly do not need him. Rather, he would be joining a team that has won it all already, that has laid the foundations for continued glory and that will keep winning with or without him. Imagine working hard at a Rubix cube for a long time. You have 90% of it done. Would you discard it for one that was already completed and call yourself a success? At Arsenal, tough as times may be, at least the Spaniard is critical to the cause. He is the captain, the maestro. Any trophy he may go on to win with Arsenal will be hard-fought, strived for, and all the more satisfying, special and well-deserved for it.
Finally, we come to the man’s age. Fabregas is 24. Barcelona captain Carlos Puyol famously had to wait until he was 26 to lift his first trophy, and many have waited much longer. The Catalan club's interest in Fabregas will not have faded next season, nor will it the season after that. He is Xavi’s natural heir, of this there is no doubt. But that does not mean he needs to be Xavi's understudy.