El Centrocampista

SANCHEZ DEAL ALMOST DONE – Fabregas more complicated though says Guardiola

By Lee Roden

As I write this piece, Pep Guardiola and Andoni Zubizarreta are holding a press conference with the media at the Camp Nou. Some extremely significant information has been given already. First and foremost, we can reveal that the signing of Alexis Sanchez is in its final stage. Zubizarreta states “We’re at the end stage. Like all endings however, as in the best films, it is delayed!”.

Guardiola seems particularly impressed by the player, noting that “He’s young, he can play across 3 positions, he’s tall, he is intense in defence, and presses well. He’s also incredible in a one on one situation”.  An excellent endorsement for the young Chilean!

The Cesc situation, however, is not so straightforward. Pep stated “Until the very

Guardiola played down speculation over next season's shirt numbers

end, we will intend to bring him here. I hope everything can be resolved eventually.”.  Guardiola wants to avoid rushing the transfer, stressing that “we have time, we have until the 31st of August”.

Pep also tried to deflect any suggestion that Thiago Alcantara’s renewal will impact the potential Fabregas signing, insisting that “Thiago’s contract renewal doesn’t have anything to do with the arrival of Cesc”.

Straight to the point from Guardiola here, though we must be sceptical. The club line has clarified since the slipup yesterday; deny any suggestions that Thiago’s development is a consequence of the lack of progress in the Fabregas saga. This is to be expected, of course. If the club aims to sign Fabregas at a reasonable price, they need to work to prevent any suggestion of weakness. I still believe the whole truth is yet to be revealed, and the next few weeks should certainly prove to be intriguing regarding Alcantara.

Indeed, the club seem to be working hard to emphasise Alcantara’s capabilities on the field. Somewhat like when a doctor gives you a spoonful of honey to aid swallowing some bad medicine, promoting Thiago’s talents before handing him the number 4 shirt would be a shrewd move. Pep actively engaged in such promotion, explaining that the young midfielder has “incredible talent” and “an infectious personality”. He elaborated that Alcantara is “very brave and daring”, but urged caution as he has “a lot of competition in his position”.

Pep also clarified that Cesc’s absence on the current Arsenal pre-season tour has nothing to do with FC Barcelona: “Cesc has to do what Arsenal asks. If he hasn’t gone to the tour, it’s because he has niggling injuries. He is an Arsenal player”. Guardiola was emphatic here.

On the outgoing transfers situation, Zubizarreta provided a few morsels of information. Firstly, we can confirm that Bojan is in the final stages of joining Roma. “The proposal of Bojan going to Roma is moving forward. It’s at the final phase and soon there will be an agreement”, Zubi confirmed.  Conversely, regarding Jeffren’s potential departure, the situation is less clear. Zubizarreta revealed that “Pep and I have spoken with the player, and we are looking for the best solution.” He also urged caution to those following transfer situations in the media, stating “the market isn’t quite as active as the media suggest”. Any use of Jeffren as a ‘make-weight’ in the Alexis Sanchez deal seems to be a complete fabrication from these statements, as we can now presume that the player is in no advanced negotiations with any club.

On the contract renewal of Eric Abidal, the club had little to report however, with Zubi simply saying that “We hope we can solidify his contract renewal”.

Finally, Barça supporters can be relieved to know that Puyol’s recuperation is continuing well. Guardiola affirmed “He’s doing very well. He has started to run smoothly, and is experiencing no discomfort. His muscles are toning up well”. A fully fit Carles Puyol will be of a great benefit to the club, and indeed, is somewhat like a new signing due to his extended absence last season.

Today’s conference was typically guarded and careful. None the less, important information has been confirmed, primarily that Sanchez will be a Barça player within the next few weeks, and that Bojan is likely to become a Roma player within the same time scale. More complicated however, is the Fabregas saga, and Thiago Alcantara’s role in this process. Whilst Guardiola worked hard to deny any suggestion that Thiago and Cesc’s trajectory coincide in any way, this is to be expected and therefore should be scrutinised fully.

The old trope goes that when a manager is under pressure, the kiss of death is to be given a full endorsement by his chairman. Likewise, there is a suspicion that, by actively responding to the recent suggestions that Fabregas will not be coming to the club this summer, FC Barcelona are simply engaging in damage limitation. Of course, what Guardiola said is true; the transfer window closes at the end of August. I would suggest that if Fabregas was not carrying injuries at the moment, he would most likely be on a pre-season tour with Arsenal, and effectively preparing to continue as a player for that club.

In any case, what is certain is that the Fabregas and Thiago situation is a complicated one, and in the words of a certain Barça legend, “much like all good films, the ending will be delayed!”.

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