Having impressed so much as he matured into the captaincy of Arsenal, lighting up the Premier League with his quality on the ball and canny football brain, the expectation was that he would slot back into the set-up at the club which trained him and provide a clear continuity as Xavi grew older.
However, over three seasons, with three different coaches, Fabregas has yet to carve out any particular role at Camp Nou and Barca’s amenability to selling him this summer has put the likes of Manchester United and his beloved Gunners on alert.
With Gerardo Martino keen to see him recapture the authority that he displayed for Arsenal, things had started very well in 2013-14, with the Spain international directly involved in six of his side’s first 11 goals of the season. But, less than a year later, Martino is gone and Fabregas seems to have been re-cast as a super sub. Hardly the headline act.
Cesc Fabregas's exploits in La Liga this season
In a campaign in which the Spanish Supercopa was the club's only trophy, some Barcelona fans have turned on the midfielder as a scapegoat for the team's struggles, with the prodigal son booed at times towards the end of 2013-14, just as he had been a year ago.
That does not speak for all supporters – a poll published by Mundo Deportivo on Monday found that only 25 percent of the Blaugrana faithful think that Fabregas should be shown the door – but it does represent a fall from his golden-boy status.
A departure, though, is certainly a possibility. After a frustrating season and with a transfer ban looming, pending appeal, the Barca board is planning a big summer alongside new coach Luis Enrique. Cesc joins the likes of Pedro, Alexis Sanchez, Dani Alves and Adriano as possibilities to move on, while even more have been confirmed or are expected to be on their way out.
Andoni Zubizarreta and the rest of the club’s decision makers met on Monday to thrash out their plans for the season ahead and Fabregas’s future will have been near the top of the agenda.
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There is a real decision to be made on him. The midfielder’s contract at Camp Nou has two years left to run so, if Barca is not convinced that he would be worth a renewal, this would be the best time to sell while his value is higher – especially while the likes of Arsenal and United are interested and in such similar need of revitalizing their squads. At 27 years old, he may never again command a higher fee.
Arsenal included a £23.6 million buy-back clause in the deal that took the former club captain back to Catalonia and manager Arsene Wenger is understood to have talked “quite a bit” on the phone with his old skipper about the possibility of a reunion in north London.
Fabregas leaving Camp Nou would be a thorny political issue for the club, particularly after it spent so long in pursuit of him while he was at Arsenal, and he would leave a void to be filled. Despite not nailing down a specific position as his own, unquestioned, the midfielder played more games – 55 – than anyone else under Martino’s reign.
The return of Rafinha Alcantara from his loan spell at Luis Enrique’s Celta Vigo is unlikely to cover that kind of presence on its own, while Xavi is 34 and Andres Iniesta soon to be 30. It adds up to Spanish media being cautious when it comes to talk of a departure.
After the new coach’s appointment and the board meeting on Monday, Fabregas should get a clearer picture of how secure his future at the club is. Until then, his English suitors will be watching with interest.
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