After three seasons of playing second fiddle at
Barcelona, the former Arsenal captain looks like the
ideal choice to become the fulcrum of Jose Mourinho's
It is no easy task to steal the limelight a matter of hours
before the first match of a World Cup in Brazil, but Chelsea
has managed it. The signing of Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona
might have been well documented by those close to the deal
for several weeks but the confirmation still creates
shockwaves that are felt everywhere from London and
Catalunya to Spain’s World Cup training base in Curitiba.
Statement purchases don’t get much bigger.
It is, of course, Arsenal fans who will feel most aggrieved.
Arsene Wenger’s decision not to take up the club’s first
option on Fabregas when it became clear his future lay away
from Camp Nou, knowing what would likely happen if he
failed to act, could prove as defining as any in his
The Fabregas deal may also cause considerable
consternation in Manchester. Manuel Pellegrini has long
admired the Spaniard, while Louis van Gaal may now be
pushed closer to the injured and less proven Kevin
Strootman as he searches for the midfield successor to Paul
Scholes that Old Trafford is crying out for.
But their pain is Chelsea’s joy. The primal thrill that
accompanies a marquee signing can only be heightened by
getting one over your big rivals so publicly.
Then there is also the fact that Fabregas, despite being
made the scapegoat for many of the failings of Tata
Martino’s ill-fated campaign at Barcelona, remains a player
blessed with spectacular talent and, at 27, one who has
every reason to expect many more good years at elite level.
No player got more assists from open play (13) or created
more clear-cut chances (27) in Europe’s top five leagues
last season. For a team whose title challenge was derailed by
a chronic lack of imagination against the likes of West Brom,
Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and West Ham last term, his
arrival could well provide the missing piece of the jigsaw
before Diego Costa is even mentioned.
With Fabregas and Costa secured and Mourinho at the helm,
Chelsea immediately assumes the position of favorite to win
the Premier League. And with Nemanja Matic and Mohamed
Salah eligible from the start, a team that scrapped its way
to the last four of the Champions League last season should
be able to at least match that achievement with greater
style next season.
There is no small irony in the fact that Fabregas has been
the man chosen to fill the creative void so obviously left by
the departure of Juan Mata in January, a player deemed by
Mourinho tactically undisciplined to the point of idle luxury.
Fabregas, remember, is a player once praised by Pep
Guardiola for bringing “anarchy” to his fiendishly organized
pressing Barcelona side. The Bayern Munich boss, a
notoriously neurotic operator, soon grew weary of trying to
find a place for Fabregas within his system and left him on
the bench. It will be interesting to see if Mourinho, every bit
as tactically demanding of his players, can succeed where
his managerial nemesis failed.
Logic suggests Fabregas will find his regular home alongside
Matic at the base of a Chelsea midfield that now appears to
tick all the boxes. Mourinho may rely entirely on the giant Serb
to shield his back four or partner him with the bustling
Ramires to give his new signing more freedom to roam
Such a role might bring him into conflict with Oscar, but the
Brazilian’s limp and jaded performances in 2014 suggest
another playmaker is needed to lighten the load.
These are questions Mourinho must ponder, but they are the
kind any manager would relish. He now has a player who may
necessitate a tweak of style but also one of genuine world-
class ability who, by his own admission, has “unfinished
business” in the Premier League. Chelsea will hope he wastes
no time in settling it.