Cesc joined his hometown club’s academy, Barcelona’s La Masia, in 1997, training initially as a defensive midfielder with academy mates like Piqué and Messi. But despite doing well for the youth team, he never made a first-team debut.
On came Arsenal in 2003, and with limited opportunities for him at the Camp Nou, he signed for The Arsenal on September 11, 2003. He had barely begun to settle and learn from more senior midfielders when he made his debut on October 23, 2003 at home to Rotherham Utd, becoming our youngest ever first-team player at 16yrs 177days. He went on to become our youngest ever goalscorer as we deafeated Wolves 5-1 in the League Cup. He however did not take part in any league game that season.
At the start of the 04/05 season, Cesc stepped-up to be counted, making his first appearance against the mancs in the Community Shield. Fate also blessed his development with injuries to Vieira, and later, Edu and Gilberto Silva; meaning he got more playing time as a result (in the league and in other competitions); becoming our youngest ever goal scorer in a league game, netting in the 3-nil win over B’Rovers; went on to become, in the 04/05 season, UEFA Champs League’s second youngest goal-scorer as he scored the third goal in a 5-1 win over Rosenborg.
He committed his long-term future to The Arsenal with his first professional contract in September 2004. He then went on to win his first honours with the Club as he was in the team that defeated the mancs in the 2005 FA Cup final.
Vieira departed Colney and Cesc was given his number 4 shirt, featuring regularly beside Gilberto Silva in midfield, making a total of 49 apps in all competitions in the 05/06 season despite his young age. Although doubts were rampant he’d never be able to replace Vieira as he possessed a smaller frame, that many amount of apps for an 18yo showed how well he did. Cesc asserted his own style and showed he could mix it with the big boys, especially in the matches against Juventus and R’Madrid.
In September 2006, with interest from R’Madrid rebuffed and six years left on his then current deal, Arsenal offered Cesc an improved 5-yr contract embedded with an option to extend a further 3yrs. He signed this in October 2006. His reasons for signing such (from a neutral’s point of view) ridiculously long contracts? Arsenal’s playing style and AW’s influence on him.
He played in every league game in the 06/07 season, became a key player for the team, notched 13 assists, the second highest in the league, and ended the season with many individual awards. He was named in the ’06 UEFA TOTY, EPL POTM for January 2007, the Golden Boy award, nominated for PFA Players’ POTY and PFA YPOTY and named Arsenal’s POTS with 60% of votes cast. Unfortunately, inspite of this personal laurels, the Club was trophyless; just like in the season before.
Cesc knew, at the start of the 07/08 season, that he would become the Club’s most important player. This was so because of David Dein’s departure due to strife amongst board members, the departure of His Royal Highness, Thierry Henry, all-time scorer and captain at the time, and intense speculation over AW’s future at the Club. This challenge, he took well; culminating in fans nominating him POTM for August, September and October as well as EPL POTM for September. He was nominated for PFA POTY, named PFA YPOTY, named in the PFA TOTY and named the Club’s POTS for the 2nd successive time.
Gallas’ petulance resulted in the vesting of the captainship on him in November ’08, at just age of 21. This season though was blighted by an injury to his knee that kept him out for four months; this adversely affected the club as it could only manage a fourth place finish, coming 4th in the league and reaching the semis of the 08/09 Champs League.
His talismanic presence was also missed the following season after he suffered a leg fracture in the Champs Lg match against Barcelona. The Club dropped out of the league-winning race despite only being four points behind the mancs at the time of his injury and also lost out in the Champs Lg. This did not however stop him being named in the PFA TOTY for that season.
As had become synonymous with him at the time, there was serious speculation about Cesc’s future at the start of the 10/11 season with a €35m bid from Barcelona rejected. That season turned out to be one of heartache as in two weeks we lost in the League Cup Final, were eliminated in the 2nd round of the Champs League (Cesc’s misplaced backpass leading to Barca leveling scores) and were defeated in the FA Cup Qtr Final. We also gradually fell outta the race for the League title.
The following summer was once again marked by uncertainty: Barca bidding severally for Cesc, Arsenal unwilling to let their prized asset leave and Cesc willing to return home to Spain as well as ,*insert sad sigh here*, have a firmer shot at winning trophies. On August 15 2011, after Cesc reportedly refused to play for us as the season began or partake in pre-season matches, Barca signed Cesc.
Since he joined them, he’s won the Spanish Supercup as well as the UEFA Supercup and he scored on his league debut for them. Barca, however, lost out in the Champs Lg and the La Liga to the chavs and R’Madrid respectively.
However, man never seems to be able to have it all.
It is still pretty early in his Barca career, but it already feels like he may not get to have so many paragraphs written about his time in Catalonia like it can be about his time in London (doubters can scroll up and take a glance). This position of mine can be attributed to many things.
Firstly, his lack of or inadequate playing time. Cesc has played the full 90 minutes in just 9 of Barcelona’s 41 La Liga games since he joined.(@castrolfootball). And he recently decided to speak up about it. In his words, “There’s no such thing as a great substitute in the world of football – I couldn’t tell you what makes a great substitute … I’ve always said that I play for the best team in the world, but I came here to compete, to learn and enjoy, not to sit racking my brains … I am delighted to be a part of this team, but when a coach tells me I have to go, I will go – but I will not make it easy for him to do so, by any means. I will keep going, looking forward to the
time that things change. I came here to see
out my career.”
Second, is the playing position which best suits Cesc. Although he began his Arsenal career as one of two CMs, he excelled in a more advanced role behind the striker, a false number 10 that drifted in and out of attack and midfield. This role in Barca is currently one in which the inimitable and seemly untouchable Messi plays. You get ma point? I thought so.
Third, the only logic pointing towards more starts for him is if he is seen as a direct replacement for Xavi as he grows older. However, playing further back may be a waste of his talents (as seen in the match against Leverkusen). There is also the point that Thiago Alcantara has been groomed for many years as Xavi’s successor.
Fourth, his idol who brought him to the club has left.
This means Cesc can only patiently wait his chance. Sadly, many Gooners foresaw this but Cesc himself did not. Coming out to speak to the press about it shows the discomfort he’s in at not playing. At least, Monsieur Marouane doesn’t complain. At least, not to the press.
Cesc’s situation, in-turn, begs the question whether The Arsenal should make use of the buy-back clause included in his transfer to Barca. IMO, we do not need him back. His arrival would distort the balance budding in the current team. I like the egalitarianism in the current team. Even the 1st names on the team sheet do not have grand egos. Everyone works hard for the team. Ion want anyone coming and feeling like Tha Boss. What do you think?
HRHLordSleeK…Victoria Concordia Crescit