Tuesday, August 16, 2011

BLOG: The Prodigal Son

by Omar Shamout of the LA Gooners

One of the most famous stories from the Old Testament is that of the prodigal son who leaves home to lead a life of sin, only to return to the open arms of a loving father. Since Barcelona think they are more important than God, I think this fable makes a good metaphor for the Cesc Fabregas transfer saga.

Barcelona seemingly cannot stand the fact that they let Fabregas slip through their fingers, and hate watching him play in the land of brutes like Shawcross and Allardyce who think tiki-taka is some kind of tropical cocktail, and that real men can only be found on route one. Even though Arsenal play a silky, pass and move style, Barca act as if England is no place for the pride of Catalonia to become a man on the pitch, and Arsenal is inherently cruel for making a poor Spanish boy shiver in the cold so far away from the warm Spanish beaches where he grew up. I can just hear Sandro Rosell screaming to Wenger on the phone, “You made him play in the snow!”

For the past two years, Cesc Fabregas, the Captain of Arsenal FC, has assumed the role of the repentant son waiting to be embraced by his childhood idol, Pep Guardiola. Fabregas has angled for a move behind the scenes, while Barcelona and anyone even remotely related to the club, or even the city itself, has publicly demanded that Arsenal stop holding the player hostage, and allow him to return to his ancestral motherland. Somehow, in their privileged, elitist minds, this would be the honorable and sporting thing for Arsenal to do. Lost on them is the fact that Fabregas signed a contract to keep him at Arsenal until 2015. A contract he willingly accepted with nary a gun to his head or a knife to his throat (that we know of).

It appears that many fans, while not happy that Fabregas will be leaving, agree that because he is from Barcelona he should be allowed to go. I must admit this logic eludes me completely. Even if you ignore the abhorrent and classless manner in which Barcelona has acted towards Arsenal over the past two years (in blatant violation of FIFA rules no less), it is ridiculous to assume that every player should be allowed to leverage a transfer negotiation in his favor if he is from the same city as the team that wants to buy him. Since when? This is a childish desire that has no place in the high stakes, professional world of club football. We are talking about a player earning tens of millions of pounds in salary, not some college freshman who got homesick after their first semester away from home. I have no sympathy for him. Cesc is free to go back home and see his buddies Pique and Xavi every summer, and could simply retire there after his playing career ends, or decide to go back after his current contract expires. This is business, and he agreed to ply his trade at Arsenal, while assuming the role of Captain at one of the biggest clubs in Europe, in what is the most competitive, and most entertaining league in the world (no matter what the Spanish and Italians think).

To make a comparison to American sports (which I’m sure some people will object to, but I think is apt), can you possibly imagine Paul Pierce vying for a move back to Los Angeles, and Boston fans being sympathetic? And why should they? Sports fandom is wonderful because of the passion and fierce loyalty of supporters. They show up rain or shine, win or lose, and don’t like it when people disrespect the value and stature of their beloved franchise, especially when it comes from one of their best players. Professional athletes are paid vast sums of money to play a game for a few years. When they leave the game in the prime of their lives, they can go live wherever they want. Is it too much to ask for them to put on their big boy pants, and ignore what city they play in professionally? I imagine if Fabregas was from Manchester or Chelsea the sympathy would dry up pretty quickly.

Obviously, players leave their clubs before their contracts expire all the time. This too is all part of the game, and if a club wants to sell, then so be it. However, I don’t think anyone believes Arsenal wanted to sell Fabregas, and I have never heard of a player’s birthplace being used as a bargaining chip to try and lower the transfer fee. It’s my opinion that Fabregas has been silently complicit in this tactic. Simply refusing to speak does not allow you to wash your hands of any culpability. I do not wish Cesc any ill will, but I will be waiting patiently for the day when he admits what every player admits when they leave Arsenal before their time. That it was the biggest mistake of their life.

Omar Shamout is a founding member of the LA Gooners and a regular contributor to Arsenal Review USA. Whether or not you agree with his stance on Fabregas' role in the recent transfer, you have to admit many unorthodox factors were used by Barcelona to "jerk around" Arsenal throughout the proceedings. Arsenal Review USA personally wishes Fabregas all the best but Barcelona all the worst in the years to come, if that's physically possible...