Cesc Fàbregas has announced his retirement from professional football. Fine. Good. This will at last lay to rest the eternal question of whether we at the Arsenal would want him back. On the other hand, it’s opened up two cans of worms. One: would we welcome him back in a coaching role of some kind? Two: is he an Arsenal legend. I know that there are a lot of fans who fell in love with this club in part because of Cesc, and why not? He was a scintillating, terrific player capable of electrifying moments. However…
His departure set this club back years. I’ve gone over it before, such as in this post. Here’s the short version:
- By flirting with Barcelona and mailing it in at Arsenal for over a year, his performance lost its edge.
- That flirtation and half-assery influenced other players into believing that the club had no ambition and that their best bets at silverware lay elsewhere.
- He convinced Nasri and then van Persie to leave, destroying what was becoming one of the Prem’s most-lethal attacking trios.
- He set a flamethrower to Wenger’s attempt to build a squad around him.
- We sold one of the best players we’ve seen in the Emirates era at a fraction of his value.
- He confirmed our reputation as a selling club with no ambition.
- His antics almost certainly dissuaded key transfer targets to pass on a move to the Emirates.
Whom might we have signed had Cesc been fully focused? A few names that moved at around the time of Cesc’s departure includes Mascherano, David Silva, Yaya Touré, César Azpilicueta, and Eden Hazard. We were heavily linked with these and numerous other players. Signing any two of these, maybe even just one, might have been the difference between scrambling for a fourth place finish and winning the Prem. From there, all bets are off. Win the Prem and players are lining up to join this club. Instead, Cesc’s toxic behavior made our transfer targets wary, and it’s only just now, more than a decade after his departure, that we’re recovering—led, ironically, but one of the players we signed to replace him.
With all of this in mind, could he become a good coach? It’s possible. That doesn’t mean he should have any role to play here unless it’s to warn players against following his example. For as good as he was, for as successful as he was, there will always linger a nagging feeling that he could have become something truly special had he stayed. He was emerging. He was becoming a leader. He was evolving. By going to Barca, yes, he won trophies, but his development seemed to stall. He was shoehorned into their lineup, and this arguably affected his trajectory. Had he stayed here, playing week in and week out in his preferred position and in a leadership role, he could have become our next Bergkamp. He could have become a legend.
Anyone who considers him a club legend has to ask themselves whether other player deserve such status. Aaron Ramsey? Mesut Özil? Alexis Sanchez? Each of them was scintillating. Each of them won more FA Cups than Fabregas did. I’d like to think that this club is bigger than that, that it takes more to become a legend here. Don’t get me wrong. As far as Cesc goes, I’m a well-wisher…in that I don’t wish him any specific harm. I hope he enjoys his retirement from the game. I hope he does his coaching badges and coaches some club in Spain or somewhere else far from London.
See ya, Cesc. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.