Tim Stannard looks at six storylines that could unfold in Saturday's clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Will Messi break Zarra's La Liga record?
'Madrid is the perfect machine,' apparently. Which must make Liverpool a little scared. But do Madrid only look good because they're playing dross? Here's hoping...
José Mourinho must have had the demeanor and bust of a steamy seductress in a Mexican soap opera. "They don't love you there, Cesc. They don't appreciate you. They don't realise how special you are."
Whatever tactics used by the teasing Chelsea manager, they worked perfectly with the Catalan midfielder ending three years at the Camp Nou, the place where he was born to play.
Ideally, the 27-year-old would have been seeing out his playing career in Catalunya after returning to the club were he began his football life. Instead, Cesc must be feeling full of regret having never really been given an opportunity to take a leading role at Barcelona. Although patience was always going to be a virtue with Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta around, the golden generation was taking too much shifting, despite clear signs of its decline last year.
It is difficult to know if the versatile midfielder feels those campaigns were time lost and if it would have been better never to have never left Arsenal in the first place. Of course, when Barcelona came a-calling, Fabregas had to make the move or it would have bugged him until his dying days. But in retrospect, the transfer was a case of Barça wanting the footballer because it was the romantic thing to do, rather than the astute move for both parties.
To this end, Fabregas was never really given a proper role in the team, being shifted around in midfield and even up front, a feature of the footballer's time with Spain as well. However, Cesc always played his part dutifully and was remarkably effective. Last season saw a haul of 13 assists in the league and eight goals. 2012/13 produced 11 league goals and 11 assists in La Primera, fine figures for a footballer who became a boo-boy for some in the Camp Nou, unhappy at the failing form of the team.
This was certainly the case in what turned out to be Cesc's final year at Barça. Supporters would never turn on the pure Masia products such as Lionel Messi and Iniesta, which left the former Arsenal man as the scapegoat. In April, the midfielder was barracked by sections of the Camp Nou when coming on a substitute against Athletic Bilbao, not the first time that animosity towards the player had become demonstrably clear.
The departure of Frank Lampard leaves a perfectly shaped hole for Fabregas to fill. After three years in La Liga, the player now has a clearly defined raison d'être. "I know my place is in midfield - I want to play there and I think the coach knows that."
Whether or not Barça are happy to have Cesc off their hands is another matter. On one level, clearly it is better to have top-class players knocking about in the squad, but the move away from Catalunya may see a sigh of relief at the departure of a disgruntled player. However, the accursed Mourinho being the lead seducer would have rankled once a return to Arsenal had been moved out.
Despite commendable statistics during his time at Barcelona, Cesc has some catching up to do, having arrived at the tail-end of Barça's golden spell. Chelsea looks like being the perfect place to fulfill his ambitions under a manager apparently willing to let him take the lead on the pitch, rather than being a square peg in a round hole, which summed up much of Cesc's life at Barcelona.
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Fabregas was pants at Barca, (I know the stats were decent but I saw every single game he played and he really was poor in the majority) you can put that down to not playing in the right position, or limited oppertunities if you want, but I think it's more down to his attitude, I know everyone seems to think that he'll be an unqualified success at Chelsea but I'm unconvinced, He's undoubtedly a fine player but he's not quite as good everyone and more importantly he thinks he is.- frakessmee