The season has not yet officially ended, but Barça has already made their key signing. New Brazilian superstar, Neymar, will join the club this summer. A goalscoring forward with great dribbling skills who usually plays on the left, his arrival will have a knock-on effect on the rest of the squad. David Villa is almost certain to leave and the press already have him in the English Premiership. However for me, the most interesting question is how will the arrival of Neymar affect Cesc Fàbregas.
Barça’s big signing a couple of years ago, Cesc has found it much more difficult than anticipated to find a regular place in the first eleven. He has ended this season playing in the false No 9 role reserved for Messi. He can only do this of course because Messi himself is injured. Before that he spent more time on the bench than in the starting eleven. However once Messi is back fit and raring to go it is hard to see how Cesc can continue to play in that position. Neymar will clearly start on the left and for Cesc to play in attack, Messi would have to revert to the right wing. Possible, but unlikely. There is also the small matter of the other forwards in the squad. Even with Villa away, that still leaves three very good attacking players – Pedro, Alexis and Tello. All natural forwards and all probably more reliable goal scorers than Cesc. All can play in the wide position, something that does not suit Cesc.
The reality is that Cesc is primarily an attacking and creative midfielder. One who can score goals, but still at his best when moving from the midfield. This is how he was brought up to play when a youth at Barça and how he developed at Arsenal. The big problem for Cesc is that to play there he has to dislodge either Xavi or Iniesta, still probably the two most talented creative midfielders in the world. When Cesc has played in midfield, apart from injuries to the other two, Iniesta has moved forward to play on the left. Again with the arrival of Neymar that is not an option that is likely to be used much next season.
So if Cesc is to find a regular place in the team next season, he will have to compete with the likes of Pedro and Alexis to relieve Messi in the false No 9 role, or compete with Xavi and Iniesta to get into the midfield. Here of course he has another challenger in Thiago. So will Cesc stay at Barça and take up the challenge of becoming in time the successor to Xavi, or will he seek to leave his boyhood club and move to a team where he is guaranteed to be a first choice player? The English press has already begun to speculate about a move to Manchester United. On the other hand there has been nothing in the Spanish press. There all the speculation is about a possible move by Thiago, who for a quirk in his contract, can leave this summer for a mere €18 million. Interesting times ahead, and the current season has still to end. Just wait for the rumour mill to get going in all its glory once the close season is upon us.