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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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