When is a deal not a deal? When it's done in Spain, that's when. Especially around election time. After all, why make a quick 'smash and grab' transfer when it can be drawn out into a Madrid-centric version of The Archers?
Not to be outdone by Real Madrid in their pursuit and 'capture' of Racing Santander's Sergio Canales, Barça -or rather someone with a position on the board within the club - claimed that the signing of Cesc Fabregas from Arsenal will go ahead this summer. There is also an election for the Club President post coming up, so if anyone out there would like to join the dots...
Part of the blame for the situation lies with the Spanish press, who are not afraid to print rumours as facts in an attempt to stay one step ahead of the game in a country where there are four major daily newspapers dedicated entirely to sport. The suits also oblige with bold election promises to their favourite journalists. As King Eric said, "when the seagulls follow the trawler..."
Thus we have Presidents getting into power on the back of deals that they never get through (Fabregas to Real Madrid and the delayed transfer of Arjen Robben put the nails in the coffin of Madrid head Ramon Calderon, whilst Joan Laporta promised Beckham to Barça) and the journalists keen to be play their own game of Championship Manager 00/01 on cheat mode. So watch out for the following situation following Alfons Godall's stating his admiration for the Arsenal player:
1) Godall says he likes Fabregas. This goes in the headline.
2) Godall says that he doesn't know if the signing is possible. This goes in smaller print two days later.
3) Press dine out on the speculation not just over the transfer window, but perhaps for entire years à la the Ruud van Nistlerooy to Madrid situation.
The really interesting part of this though is how angry it will make a certain Mr. Wenger. Just a fortnight ago he revealed that he had written to Spain's big two with a kind request to not unsettle his players. And he is not one to forgive and forget, if his persistent non-handshaking is anything to go by.
Should a deal go through, however, it could have big repercussions for Barça's lineup and for Fabregas' career. He is a player who has thrived on being the star of the show, and his emergence came at the time that established names had been sold off. He would be compared to Messi et al on a weekly basis, with rewards that would not completely outweigh the negative side of the situation. It would also surely lead to the departure of Thierry Henry (reportedly MLS-bound) and more than likely Bojan Krikic in a lineup that runs the risk of becoming unbalanced.
Madrid may have been more successful in the past with their star signings via the press, or alternatively worse at keeping done deals out of the papers. However, when it comes to boasting about Cesc, nobody is immune when trying to impress.