By Ben Thomas

As an Arsenal fan, I am sure you can understand that I don’t have much time for Barcelona.

Back in 2000, Barcelona poached Marc Overmars and Manu Petit from us after overtly courting them in the press throughout the season. In the case of these particular players, it turned out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise for Arsenal. Fans were initially taken aback at the departure of two first team stars, but neither really did anything of note after that and Arsenal pocketed a wad of money. Fair enough.

Then came Thierry Henry. For two seasons, fans were confronted with the sports pages being filled with “Will he, won’t he?” stories and Barcelona players like Ludovic Guily trying to tempt him to Catalonia. Again, Henry didn’t really have as much of an impact in Spain as was expected and Wenger’s judgement in finding the right time to let a player go proved to right once again, but the bitter taste remained.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

This time, it is different. Cesc Fabregas is 23 years old and about to hit his peak, there is no way this is good timing from Arsenal’s point of view.

But Barcelona do not give up, they are shameless when it comes to signing players. They see themselves as a Holy club, like all top players must lust after the idea of making the pilgrimage to the Camp Nou and playing in the blaugrana. What is more annoying for someone like me, a supporter of an ever so slightly underachieving club, is that they almost never get proved wrong. They have absolutely no respect for the wishes of the other team as long as they get the player they want.

Ironically the word “respect” often comes up in all these conveniently placed interviews with presidents and players when it comes to talking of transfer targets.

Carles Puyol: “… we need to respect that he has a contract with his club.
Txiki Begiristain: “
Cesc has a contract with his club and we will be very respectful.”

Where is the respect with this media onslaught? It is as though Barcelona are openly ridiculing Arsenal’s position in this transfer saga (give it a few more weeks and I guarantee it will become CescGATE) as they continue to pursue this line of innocence as though they are doing the world a favour in taking Fabregas back to his hometown. The way some media outlets report on Barcelona you’d have thought they’d found a cure for AIDs about ten times. How blinkered do you have to be to have the gall to talk like Bergiristain and Puyol? Or even like Pique, say this:

“The chairman told you the story. The more you speak the less good it is.” Fine, good, shut the hell up then!!! Stop contradicting yourselves!

Yesterday Francesc Fabregas Soler, Cesc’s father, went on Spanish radio and admitted that there had been contact with Barcelona which, before we even consider anything else he said, is ILLEGAL as Fabregas is under contract with Arsenal until 2015. He also said the word respect, but this time, in reference to his son:

“ I think that everyone should just respect the decision of the player.”

Coming from the boy’s father that is an understandable request to make and it will have served the purposes Barcelona will have desired – his family as well has his hometown club want him back in Spain. In a normal employment dispute I am sure that such a plea could be considered, but Cesc Fabregas is no ordinary boy. He one of the best footballers in the world on a very lucrative contract, and with the signing of his most recent deal, Arsenal have based their short term future around him.

Unfortunately for Mr Fabregas Snr, in the grand scheme of things his comments mean absolutely nothing. Cesc is a man in his own right of over eighteen years of age, who signed a legally binding contract that runs for a further five years. Nothing that the boy’s father says should have any bearing on the outcome of the situation.

But what bothers me the most about this situation is that FIFA do not enforce their own rules. Tapping up is not accepted and this is the worst case I have seen in years – that includes Berbatov to Manchester United. The football authorities let big clubs get away with far too much because they depend on their worldwide appeal in order to maintain public interest in the game. This does not mean that they should be allowed to act as though the rules do not apply to them.

This whole situation shows so much that is wrong in the modern game. It is high time for FIFA to man up and deal with these “footballing” highwaymen before it gets any worse.

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