Cesc Fabregas vs. The English and Spanish Media

By on October 13, 2009

Cesc and RosickyBrett Chase is a guest contributor to Arsenal Station. He is the Vice-President of the New York City Arsenal Supporters’ Club and has supported the Arsenal for a decade. Here, he talks about the position which Cesc finds himself in regarding the media and the constant speculation surrounding his future. He is also a regular contributor to both  The Modern Republic, a blog which comments on football, music, and fashion and The Modern Gooner.

As we while away the hours of yet another seemingly interminable international break, there are certain things that we Arsenal supporters have come to expect from these weeks without proper football: Ridiculous transfer rumors, Arsenal players returning with injuries (Psycho Stu Pearce to blame for about 25% of these, all to Theo)… and stories about Cesc Fabregas’ imminent return to play in Spain.

Oh no, we couldn’t forget those.  It seems that for every tale our El Capitan Catalan Fantastico rebuts about a move to Barcelona, for every time that Cesc reaffirms his commitment to and demonstrates his love for Arsenal, there is always another story in the tabloid sports pages to contradict him.

I am bothered less that the stories are written; the papers exist to sell themselves, and there will always be transfer rumors about the best players in the Premier League, particularly those who hail from countries other than England.  What irks me the most is the constancy of such stories, and the appearance that these are encouraged or even started by other clubs, presumably to unsettle Cesc.

Cesc kisses badgeThe biggest culprits of this in my mind are the Catalan newspaper SPORT, who have a rather cozy relationship with FC Barcelona, and the Madrid newspaper Marca, ostensibly controlled by Real Madrid.  It is from these two newspapers that the majority of the “Cesc to Spain” stories seem to originate, yet no one seems to question the validity of these reports despite a seeming conflict of interest.  But the English papers are far from blameless in this scenario, creating a great number of these baseless stories on their own.

In fact, the stories have become so plentiful that on a number of occasions, the Spanish papers have put out a story, which has been picked up on and reported by the English tabloids, and then in turn picked up on and reported by the Spanish papers, basically using the English papers’ ineptitude at fact-checking to validate their own fabrications.

Perhaps it is my background in American sports showing.  After all, if the New York Yankees traded away a young player, and once that player became a star began to flood the Daily News and other papers with stories about the player’s need to return and his “Yankee DNA,” the offended team would file tampering charges faster than Pavlyuchenko downs vodka.  It’s just not tolerated.

Perhaps the saddest part of this situation has been played by Cesc himself, and to illustrate I will contrast his situation with another high-profile Spaniard plying his trade in England, Fernando Torres.  Both Fabregas and Torres grew up playing in the youth systems for the clubs that they and their families supported growing up, F.C. Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, respectively.

Their paths diverge in that Torres played for several seasons with the Atletico senior squad, whereas Cesc was plucked from the obscurity of Barcelona’s youth team by Arsene Wenger and became a star abroad with Arsenal. But the biggest difference is that Cesc has always been forthright and honest about his desire to someday return to play in Spain, whereas Torres never had to make such a claim.

It is this personal honesty on the part of Cesc Fabregas, repeated time and again in his denials of an imminent departure of Arsenal, which has made him an easy target for the sports press in both countries

Cesc at Barca

In the end, what I see as particularly conspiratorial and sinister in this situation are the persistent reports from Barcelona players and personnel talking up how badly Cesc wants to return and how much he is wanted there.  We have seen Barca defender Gerard Pique (who particularly needs to shut his tapas-hole) admitting that he continues to personally appeal to Fabregas during international duty to leave Arsenal, and then recently the comment by Xavi Hernandez that I mockingly alluded to earlier, about Cesc having “Barcelona DNA.”

This last seems to have prompted Cesc’s most recent denial of a move and his badge-kissing celebration after scoring in an otherworldly performance versus Blackburn (after which, prouder of El Capitan I cannot remember being).  However, none of this has slowed the Barca media blitz.  The latest comments came on Sunday from Barcelona sporting director Txiki Begiristain himself, claiming that Barca “will sign Fabregas.”

Comments such as these are largely the result of clubs like Barca and Real Madrid holding presidential elections, wherein the candidate who promises the most in terms of signings is generally the victor.  What I do not understand is how such comments, particularly those by a director like Begiristain, do not constitute tapping-up or tampering in the eyes of UEFA or FIFA.

Much is made by the likes of Michel Platini about Arsenal signing young players, and plans are in the works to prevent this.  But nary a whisper can be heard regarding this far more egregious and blatant actions on the part of Spanish clubs.  I have in the past made the case that Platini has an anti-English bias; this, I contend, is just another example to support that argument.

It occurs to me that we Arsenal supporters will need to put these stories out of mind, and leave such newspapers as we would any other tabloid: unread, or taken with a grain of salt.  There may come a day, years from now, when we won’t be barraged on all sides by rumors of Cesc leaving for Barcelona.  Sadly, however, I expect this to be because Cesc will already have departed.  In the meantime, we Gooners will have to appreciate the player that we have, and not worry about the future.  I believe that Cesc loves Arsenal; I know that Arsenal loves Cesc.