The Fabregas transfer saga timeline: how Barca got what they wanted
In 2009 the media tap-up circus from Barcelona went into fifth gear as the Catalans became desperate to win back the heart (and signature) of a player they didn’t care about ten years earlier. It’s important we all remember what went on between Barcelona and Arsenal as it shows not only what kind of club we’re dealing with on a regular basis, but also how Arsenal were disrespected and belittled for years just for wanting to keep our best players.
Barcelona are the club we have dealt with the most in the transfer market. As of 2012 we’ve made ten separate deals with Barca. It started with selling Marc Overmars and Emmanuel Petit for a combined £32m. We then signed Fabregas in 2003-2004 and sold Giovanni van Bronckhorst the season after that. Fran Merida, Thierry Henry and Alexander Hleb followed, and the most recent deals include Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin.
It’s safe to assume we will continue dealing with Barcelona in the future, although the following timeline will certainly show we shouldn’t be doing business with them at any level.
Prepare to be annoyed:
- 11 September 2003 After failing to guarantee first team opportunities, and not working hard enough to keep him, Barcelona lose Cesc Fabregas to Arsenal where he makes his first team debut 40 days later in a Carling Cup match against Rotherham United.
- 2 October 2009 Xavi coins the now legendary phrase “He is a football player with Barça DNA” about Cesc Fabregas in an interview with El Mundo Deportivo.
- 26 December 2009 In a response to Joan Laporta claiming he wants to enter talks with Arsenal over Fabregas, chairman Peter Hill-Wood responds in an interview with the Daily Star, saying: “I am really pissed off with Barcelona and all that nonsense. It is not the first time they have done this and it is a most disrespectful and tiresome thing to do. You would think there would be some action you could take against them, but I suppose you cannot stop the man shooting his mouth off.”
- 31 March 2010 Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood reveals to ESPN that “There was a private conversation that took place in the boardroom and assurances have been made at the highest possible level that Barcelona would not move for Fabregas when the summer transfer window opened.” He also added “Arsenal do not expect those assurances to be broken.”
- 14 April 2010 In an interview with the Daily Express, Lionel Messi is quoted saying “Cesc has a place for Arsenal in his heart, but he has Barcelona in his blood. He will want to win win the biggest prizes in football, and I expect him to do that at Barcelona. I don’t exactly know when that will be, but I expect him to be my Barcelona team-mate again at some point.”
- 15 April 2010 When asked about the boardroom deal preventing Barcelona from bidding on Fabregas, Txiki Begiristain is quoted in Spanish newspaper AS saying “If Barcelona considers it necessary for the team, [we will] go after him, always respecting the negotiations. We have never said that we will not try to sign Cesc Fábregas. We’ll see what happens.”
- 18 May 2010 Rafael Yuste, then vice-president of Barcelona, tells Catalonian radio station Ona FM he has been in contact with Cesc Fabregas, and that the player expressed his desire to join Barcelona. If true, Barca is in breach of FIFA rules stating you are not allowed to contact players without the written consent of their current club (usually after a transfer bid has been accepted).
- 20 May 2010 According to The Guardian, Barcelona urges Cesc Fabregas to publicly state that he wants to move to the Catalan club.
- 22 May 2010 When asked about Barcelona’s public courting of Fabregas, Peter Hill-Wood is quoted saying “It’s a funny way of doing business.”
- 25 May 2010 Joan Oliver (Barcelona’s director general) is quoted saying “We have had first contacts with Arsenal in which we made known our intention to talk and that’s the situation.”
- 31 May 2010 Joan Laporta is quoted saying “We are being prudent in the sense that we are not going to do things that are not logical. We have a player who has expressed his intention of coming to Barcelona. [Fabregas] has said it and I want to thank him publicly for that decision.”
- 1 June 2010 Barcelona submits a written offer of €35m for Cesc Fabregas.
- 2 June 2010 Arsenal rejects Barcelona’s €35m bid, releasing a statement saying “Yesterday evening we received an offer from Barcelona for Cesc and in response we immediately and resolutely told them once again that we have no intention of selling our captain. […] To be clear, we will not make any kind of counterproposal or enter into any discussion. Barcelona have publicly stated that they will respect our position and we expect that they will keep their word.”
- 2 June 2010 Xavi tells reporters “Two years ago, I said Cesc would end up playing for Barcelona, and now it is clearer than ever. He has also expressed publicly that he wants to come to Barcelona and when a player wants to move to some place he ends up going. It is clear that Cesc will come to Barcelona.”
- 4 June 2010 After Arsenal rejects Barcelona’s €35m bid, Joan Laporta is quoted in AS, saying “It’s a price that we consider to be his market value. Arsenal have rejected it. Now [sporting director Txiki Begiristain] must decide what should be the next step. We have to do everything we can to convince [Arsenal] that the best thing for all is to reach an agreement.” Laporta is also quoted saying “The club have full confidence that Arsenal will end up understanding the situation” on Barcelona’s official website.
- 17 June 2010 Sandro Rosell is quoted as being “convinced” Fabregas will move to Barcelona by the start of the 2010-2011 season.
- 21 June 2010 Joan Laporta is quoted saying “Arsenal will end up giving in, but I don’t know when that will be.”
- 4 July 2010 Sandro Rosell is seen talking to, and photographed with, Cesc’s family at the Catalunya MotoGP bike race.
- 5 July 2010 The Daily Star claims Pep Guardiola visited Spain’s World Cup squad and told Fabregas they would do everything in their power to sign him.
- 6 July 2010 After almost two months of courting Fabregas publicly through the media, Sandro Rosell complains to radio station RAC1 about the publicity he’s created, saying “The whole world knows he wants to come and that we want to sign him. It is a topic that has become so public and that is the worst thing you can do with a transfer, because it makes the selling club raise their expectations and you end up paying over the odds.” Rosell also states “We will never pay €50m or €60m for Cesc.”
- 12 July 2010 La Masia graduates Gerard Piqué, Pepe Reina and Carles Puyol “pranks” Cesc Fabregas by pulling a Barcelona shirt over his head at Spain’s celebrations for winning the World Cup.
- 13 July 2010 Gerard Piqué is quoted saying “Cesc will one day sign for Barça.” Andres Iniesta is also caught courting Fabregas in a separate interview, saying “Everybody has come out and spoken of the desire we have for him to be with us next season. We would be delighted. Not just because he is a team-mate and a friend, but because it would be great for the club.”
- 15 July 2010 Sandro Rosell openly admits Barcelona have at least €50m to spend, but reiterates that Barcelona values Fabregas as worth no more than €40m.
- 16 July 2010 Sandro Rosell insinuates that he thinks the buying club sets the value of a player, telling Catalan television “[Arsenal] don’t want to listen to offers or sell and they are not putting the player on the market. There was a strong dispute a few months ago and they have not forgotten it. [Fabregas] will come, even if it is not now, it will be next year. We will see. One thing that is certain is that we will not be throwing the house at trying to sign him. No shareholder would pay €60m or €70m for him. We would only pay his value in the transfer market.”
- 17 July 2010 Arsene Wenger tells The Sun “We always had a consistent attitude and were always reluctant to talk about Cesc’s departure. […] It is very important we give the impression that just because somebody wants a player from us, we do not just give in.”
- 18 July 2010 Carles Puyol is quoted in the Daily Star, saying “I think Arsenal need to respect his class and show the same class by giving the guy who has given so much to them the move that he and his family want. […] He is the future of Barcelona and Arsenal can’t do anything to stop that. I have just spent six weeks with him and there is only one club he wants to be at. […] The worst-case scenario is that we have to wait another 12 months for him to join us – but Arsenal, Barcelona and Cesc know that is the very worst-case scenario.”
- 27 July 2010 Barcelona board spokesman Toni Freixa complains to the media about Arsenal not being willing to sell Fabregas, saying “Arsenal don’t want to sit down and negotiate with us. It’s not a problem with the wishes of Cesc or of Barça – they simply don’t want to negotiate.”
- 30 July 2010 Carles Puyol is once again caught talking on Cesc’s behalf, saying “His heart is already in Barcelona, even though we must wait another year for his body to be here.” He goes on to say “Anybody who tries to convince themselves he wanted to stay at Arsenal is wrong.” In a related interview, Gerard Pique says (after spending a holiday with Fabregas in Ibiza) that “I do not feel a club should keep a footballer who wants to leave. Especially in this case, where Cesc has done everything for Arsenal.”
- 6 August 2010 Cesc Fabregas finally publicly commits himself to Arsenal, claiming “I can assure all the fans that now the negotiations have ended I will be 100% focused on playing for Arsenal. I am an Arsenal player and as soon as I step out on to the pitch that is the only club I will be thinking about.”
- 11 February 2011 In an interview with The Guardian, Xavi is quoted saying “I think that a footballer ends up playing where he wants. [Fabregas] has to end up here.” When asked about the public courting of Cesc causing trouble, Xavi responds “Really? I hardly spoke then. I imagine they wouldn’t have liked that.” He then goes on doing the thing he thinks we didn’t like, adding “I also say it because I’m thinking of Cesc. He wants to come here. Barcelona has always been his dream. This situation is a [bummer] for him.”
- 28 March 2011 Just in time for the new transfer window, Xavi is once again caught talking on Cesc’s behalf, telling Sport “I would like Cesc to come to Barca and he has also said that he wants to.”
- 3 June 2011 In an interview with Cadena COPE radio station, David Villa is quoted saying “As a player, everybody knows what Barcelona brings [for players]. And as a person, [Fabregas] deserves to return to Barcelona. His family is here and it is where he started. Having him would be a great joy and I’d be happy for him because he deserves it, and I’d be happy to have him as my team-mate.”
- 4 June 2011 According to El Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona have clearly broken FIFA tapping up rules by agreeing a five-year deal with Cesc Fabregas without written consent from Arsenal, and before agreeing a transfer fee with the north London club.
- 17 June 2011 Sandro Rosell is quoted in an interview implying a player is like a second-hand car, saying “If last summer we offered €40m for Cesc, and since then there has been wear and tear, now he’s worth less.” He goes on to say “In the case that we were interested, our offer would be reasonable. We would not go overboard.”
- 21 June 2011 Sandro Rosell is quoted on Catalan TV station TV3, saying “[Cesc Fabregas] is doing everything he can to come, [Pep] Guardiola knows the values of players and Cesc’s value is less than €40m.”
- 23 June 2011 According to Barcelona-based radio station Ona FM, Barca made a formal bid of between €30-35m for Fabregas a couple of days earlier, which was rejected by Arsenal.
- 30 June 2011 According to The Guardian, Barcelona makes a new offer for Cesc Fabregas, this time believed to be closer to €39m. Arsenal are clear on the matter: Fabregas is not for sale.
- 2 July 2011 According to El Mundo Deportivo, Barca bid €35m for Fabregas, but only €29m in cash, as they feel Arsenal owe them €6m for Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin. However, Arsenal already paid Barcelona a mandatory compensation package for the two players (worth around £750,000), but the Catalan club feel entitled to more, and want to take that out of the non-existing Fabregas deal.
- 3 July 2011 According to El Mundo Deportivo, Joan Ferrando (Cesc Fabregas’ personal trainer and fellow Catalan) has told Fabregas that if he comes to Barcelona, his injury problems would stop.
- 5 July 2011 In an interview with Spanish TV network laSexta, Andres Iniesta is caught talking on Cesc’s behalf, saying “Cesc? It’s possible it can happen, hopefully. We’ve talked by phone and he’s calm, awaiting the events.”
- 7 July 2011 Speaking to Spanish news outlet EFE, Liverpool goalkeeper and fellow La Masia graduate Pepe Reina claims “Cesc wants to join Barca, that’s what he has always said.” Meanwhile, Dani Alves is quoted in an interview with RAC1 saying “I am convinced Cesc will join us. Arsenal are tourist class. Barcelona are in business class and any player would want to join us.”
- 8 July 2011 Ex-Barcelona president Joan Gaspart is quoted saying “Cesc is a great player, his signing would be good, but is not needed,” in an attempt to send a message to Arsenal that Barca won’t pay over the odds for Fabregas.
- 12 July 2011 Speaking to Arsenal’s official website, Arsene Wenger is quoted saying “You do not educate a player for eight years as we have done only to want him to go once he is at an age to deliver.” He also talks about the quotes from Sandro Rosell in June, saying “[Saying he’s worth less this year] is disrespectful to Cesc.”
- 13 July 2011 Albert Benaiges – ex-youth coach at Barcelona when Fabregas was at La Masia – attempts to re-write history, claiming “Cesc didn’t want to leave but his parents decided. Arsenal took advantage of the elections at Barca.” Meanwhile, Xavi is quoted on Barcelona’s official website, saying “I spoke to Cesc in Ibiza and he said he was suffering because he wanted to come.”
- 15 July 2011 Estanislau Fors i Garcia – the mayor of Catalan town Arenys de Mar where Cesc Fabregas grew up – wants in on the media tap-up circus, adding “We want him to come right away, he is experiencing a kidnapping. If the English are so honourable they should behave properly. [Arsene Wenger] has to stop clowning around because it’s disorienting for all of us.”
- 15 July 2011 Talking about Xavi’s quotes on Barcelona’s official website, Arsene Wenger hints at the blatant instruction from Barca to their players to tap up Fabregas through the media, saying “I don’t think it’s a sentence big enough to report a club to FIFA. [The tapping up] has to stop, of course. Xavi has no direct part to play in that story and I don’t see why he should, unless he has an official job to do for Barcelona.”
- 21 July 2011 Reports (later confirmed by Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis) about Cesc Fabregas refusing to train in a bid to force a move to his dream club.
- 12 August 2011 The deal between Arsenal and Barcelona is agreed, but Carles Puyol and Gerard Piqué can’t hide their excitement, leaking the deal on their Twitter accounts. As the deal involved a non-disclosure agreement until official confirmation from Arsenal, Barcelona decides to delay the signing until the following Monday.
- 14 August 2011 During Barcelona’s 2-2 draw with Real Madrid in the first leg of the Super Cup, Arsenal officially confirms the Fabregas deal, and Sandro Rosell is quoted giving the basic numbers as €29m initial fee and €10m add-ons, divided into two €5m payments. First €5m payment is a €1m per year reduction of Cesc’s salary for his first five years at the club, prompting some supporters to think Fabregas took a pay cut to give Arsenal €5m (he didn’t). The second €5m is a potential trophy bonus; if Barcelona wins three league titles and one Champions League title within the first five years of Cesc’s transfer, Arsenal receive the full €5m.
- 15 August 2011 Cesc Fabregas signs his five-year contract with Barcelona, who installs a €200m buy-out clause for the player they’ve repeatedly claimed is worth no more than €40m. The saga is finally over, and Barcelona has shown the world how persistence and circumvention of FIFA rules makes it possible to buy world-class players for silly money.
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