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FC Barcelona, a team difficult not to love … and hate.

On Saturday 28th May 2011, Barcelona provided the watching world with one of the greatest conclusions to a season ever with their 3-1 win over Manchester United in the Champions League final at Wembley.  The performance that won them the trophy, along with incredibly consistent displays throughout the season that also saw them retain their Primera División for a third successive season, had many, if not all running out of superlatives. In winning these trophies, Barcelona provided spectators with a plethora of style, grace, skill and  exuberance that forced Sir Alex Ferguson into the admission that they were ‘the best team I have faced’.

Seemingly though, no sooner had this masterclass at Wembley come to an end, Barcelona’s attention turned to their long-running pursuit of Arsenal’s Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas, and a series of dirty, rule bending tricks would be brought into play by the European champions in an attempt to unsettle him. Along with a catalogue of quotes from several of their players designed to unrest Fabregas, Barcelona were also stubborn, disorganised and nonsensical when trying to agree a fee with Arsenal for the player. In the past week, even the mayor of Fabregas’ hometown has given us his thoughts on the matter, although admittedly what he actually had to say, comparing Fabregas’ current situation to kidnap, had about as much logic to it as trying to ride a bike that doesn’t have any wheels.

The first barrage of reports linking Fabregas with a transfer to the Camp Nou started in the summer of 2010. Much like this summer, the Spaniard was consistently linked with a move, and Arsene Wenger was relentless in his defiance of such a prospect. This summer, current Barcelona stars such as Xavi, David Villa, Daniel Alves, Gerard Piqué and Carles Puyol have decided to publicly voice their insistence that not only Fabregas the player comes to join the party in Catalonia, but Fabregas their mate comes to join the party in Catalonia. Now here is where the concern over Barcelona’s off-field conduct first arise. Where as the manner with which they go about their business on the pitch is an example for generations to follow, their behavior off it is one that smacks of arrogance,disrespect and in some cases, sheer stupidity.

Now I am prepared to give the Barcelona players that have reportedly come out with quotes a degree of slack as there could be a case of their comments being lost in translation, or even the media source to have written them down twisting their words to make a story. But what can’t be denied is that players have come out and talked to the media about the transfer of another club’s player. Now no official rules are being broken here, but technically it could be seen as ‘tapping up’ Fabregas. What is for sure is the fact that what the Barcelona players are doing is unethical, and is therefore ‘unsporting conduct’.

Now one of my major grievances over this whole episode is the way Arsenal Football Club have been treated. Granted, Barcelona are virtually untouchable on the pitch at the moment, but let’s not forget that a new season is about to start. Who’s to say that Barcelona will still be in such a healthy position come this time next year?  With Mourinho’s Real bound to improve upon last year’s efforts, and the Champions League being notoriously difficult to retain, Barca may not be so infallible come May 2012.  For me, the most important fact to remember is that Arsenal, like Barcelona, are a huge club.  Under Wenger, Arsenal’s stock has risen phenomenally, with the club becoming one of the most profitable and valuable sports teams around. The football played at the Emirates, although maybe not quite matching Barca’s standard, is fantastic to watch, and in Wenger, they have one of the most revered managers around. And let’s not forget that Arsenal were the only team to beat Barcelona in this year’s Champions League.

I think Arsenal deserve far more respect than what has been given to them by Barcelona. Without Arsenal, Fabregas wouldn’t be a world champion, he wouldn’t even be upon Barcelona’s transfer radar. Under Wenger, he has become a genuine world class talent. Not bad for a club that ‘kidnapped’ him now, is it?

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  1. Bescotti

    19 July, 2011 at 16:14

    Decent article and agree partially with what you’re saying, however it is also down to Fabregas he only fuels speculation with contradictory quotes. Also to say he wouldn’t be on Barcelona’s transfer radar without Arsenal is a bit of a moot point as they poached him from Barcelona’s youth setup in the first place.

    Barcelona I think are merely doing what Arsenal and many other clubs do to other clubs. It is now just like the Ronaldo and Madrid saga, it is not a question of if, but when.

  2. alexreid

    19 July, 2011 at 23:16

    Very Good article- keep it up.

  3. Ynatsom

    20 July, 2011 at 02:05

    I would like to clarify some aspects of the article:

    1. Fabregas was poached from Barcelona when he was 16 and in the last two years he has tried to come back to where he was raised as a football player.
    2. Wenger agreed last year to let Fabregas to go to Barcelona in the 2011 summer, but not for the 2010-2011 season. Fabregas accepted the deal.
    3. If Arsenal were completely opposed to transfer Fabregas, the negotiation would be over long time ago (is anyone negotiating for Ronaldo, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Casillas??)
    4. It’s been more than six years that Mr. Wenger doesn’t win any competition, so I think that they need more than Fabregas to come back.
    5. The words that Xavi, Pique and other players used to depict the situation of their teenage friend in some cases, or national team mates in others, were taken out of context (or lost in translation), but never offensive to anybody.
    6. Wenger knows that Guardiola will get the best of Fabregas and that Barcelona would be even harder to defeat. For the same money any other team would have Fabregas by now.

  4. jan

    20 July, 2011 at 10:46

    The author doesn’t have a clue about media habits in Spain where players are more free in their contacts to the press and aren’t only saying phrases prepared by the club’s PR deprtament. This of course makes the rest of the article quite worthless because it starts from a wrong base. Inform yourself about Spanish media and then come back with a better-founded opinion.

    You can say Barcelona’s communciation department is bad/innocent because they’re not aware English media twist and use the quotes to stir up the fans, but you can’t say players speaking their mind in a very normal way is arrogant or disrespectful or unethical or unsporting or any of those big words people tend to use so easily.

    And “tapping up” is something that happens in private, the whole idea that players speaking out in public is part of one big tapping-up plan is of course absurd because even the fooliest fool sees that talking in public would be the worst tapping-up plan ever.

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