Cesc nonstory ends; chase for CB intensifies

Posted by Francesc Tomas

As expected, Cesc Fabregas went on record to explain what everyone who has been following Barcelona already knew before he even started speaking: "My dream is to play here, I have never considered leaving. Things were invented. I do not understand how. I have not spoken with any other club for two summers now. I am at the most demanding and the biggest club in the world."

I consider this Cesc-to-Manchester United saga a nonstory which the media has insisted on dragging on far too long without any clear evidence. As I argued many times before, there is simply no reason for Fabregas to leave the team he intensely fought to join a couple of summers ago.

I am obviously not here to talk about why United may have insisted on signing the Catalan playmaker. But from a Blaugrana perspective, it is obviously reassuring to see that a player who hasn't always made the starting XI at the Camp Nou can attract such determined level of interest from one of the biggest European clubs without ever even hinting of a slight desire to join them.

I am certainly looking forward to witnessing Cesc challenging for even more playing time this year. Based on his fantastic preseason performances, it will be difficult for coach Gerardo Martino to justify leaving No. 4 out of the starting lineup.

Fabregas' ability to find scoring positions and, most important, finish them with conviction, should -- perhaps sooner than most expect -- give him the edge over the legendary Xavi Hernandez within the Barcelona midfield.

Time to sit back and enjoy his performances wearing the Blaugrana -- hopefully for many more years to come.

Chase for centre back intensifies

According to reports, Barcelona have finally stepped up their chase for the long-awaited centre back with a 40 million euro offer for Chelsea's David Luiz. Meanwhile, and despite Liverpool insisting that no formal offer has been received, the Blaugrana are also believed to have made a 20 million euro bid for Daniel Agger.

Gerard Pique explained recently: "Barcelona always need special players. They have to be cast from a different mould because our footballing style is unique and it's difficult to find that specific centre half that we're looking for."

The 26-year-old Catalan is right. Considering the obvious attacking emphasis within the team's formation and the fans' high expectations, there are very few defenders out there who could potentially fit the profile the club is looking for.

A clear example: The last specialist central defender signed by Barcelona was Dmytro Chygrynskiy in August 2009. Former manager Pep Guardiola insisted on investing a puzzling 25 million euros on the Ukrainian. But the decision was a resounding disaster which hurt the club from an economic and sporting perspective: 14 disappointing appearances and a costly ticket back to Shakhtar Donetsk the very next summer.

If you analyse the current market carefully, there just aren't enough quality candidates out there with the necessary skills: experienced, reliable, confident on the ball, powerful in the air, able to track back quickly in transition and last, but certainly not least, eager to develop his own skills further by listening to the guidance of the Camp Nou coaches and the ever-recovering Carles Puyol.

Thiago Silva was the obvious first choice, but he decided to stay in Paris and use the Blaugrana interest to negotiate a better deal at his current club. In his eyes, 12 million euros per season was certainly a good enough reason to reject the offer to join the Catalans and, from that point, Barcelona had to look for alternatives elsewhere. Good luck to him with Les Parisiens.

David Luiz, Daniel Agger, Mats Hummels, Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Vermaelen, Marquinhos ... The list of potential transfers has been discussed to death all summer. The only certainty is that, to this day, nobody really knows what the final outcome will be.

Given the fact La Liga starts in 10 days, I would be pleased with the arrival of either Luiz or Agger, in that order. The Barcelona board has explained the club will pay as much as they believe is reasonable for the new centre half and that the deal will be closed before Aug. 31, but I believe the reported initial offers presented to Chelsea and Liverpool are high enough already.

It is expected former Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho will do all within his power to either retain Luiz (if you believe what he has already told the press, that is) or obtain as much profit as possible from the sale of a player many believe he didn't want in his Chelsea squad in the first place -- which, quite frankly, nobody can really fault him for.

Clearly, tough negotiations are ahead, but time is now running out for team president Sandro Rosell to deliver the defender that the club so desperately needs. Unfortunately, such a tight deadline is likely to make the potential transfer even more costly for Barcelona but, at this point, there is very little room to manoeuvre.

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