One of the more interesting parts of being a fan of more than one sports is the ability to observe parallels and general trends that transcend each sport. We as fans like to believe that every player on our teams is as dedicated to the cause as we are and yet in most cases this is the exception and not the rule. Athletes, just like us regular human beings who don’t make at least a hundred quid a week, want to live as easy as can be. And when that means changing teams to be more comfortable and be in a better position to win (read: make more money), players are more than willing to do this.
I had a conversation about this with one of my good friends Puneet Singh, who is also as big of a football fanatic as I, and we came to the conclusion that LeBron James, of the Miami Heat, and Francesc Fabregas, of Arsenal, are functional equivalents within their individual sports.
Last summer James made a rather ignominious move to leave Cleveland, the team that drafted him number one overall out of high school and helped make him the superstar player he is today and to sign with the Miami Heat to join forces with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade. James decided to take his talents to South Beach for the same reasons that Fabregas will be taking his talents to Camp Nou this summer: to play with a better more polished class of players and to have a chance to win a trophy.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, in their Lebron James pomp, were quite similar to the Arsenal team from the years 2003-2010. They were perennial underachievers of whom so much came to be expected every season. Within a year both competed for the highest honours any team could win. The Cavaliers played in the 2007 NBA Finals versus the San Antonio Spurs and Arsenal played Barcelona in the 2006 UEFA Champions League Final in Paris.
Additionally, both Arsenal and the Cavaliers failed to add a big piece to help out their superstar player. I know some of you reading this may be saying “Well what about Andrey Arshavin?” I would argue that Arshavin is the NBA equivalent of Mo Williams. Yes, 19 goals in 59 appearances is nothing to sneeze at, but neither is Williams’s 16.8 points per game during James’ time with the Cavaliers.
To put it simply, neither Arsene Wenger nor Danny Ferry have done or did do enough to keep their star player satisfied and surrounded by winning talent. Wenger’s transfer policy tacitly accepts that Arsenal are bound to lose players like Fabregas to teams like Barcelona and Wenger looks to replace players who have not even left yet instead of replacing players who are already gone.
The most obvious similarity between the two teams is that neither has won a title recently (the Cavaliers have never won an NBA Finals). Fabregas has almost every right to be frustrated with Arsenal’s barren run (the football equivalent of Steve Carrell’s character in 40 Year-Old Virgin) in the league and on the continent. Arsenal continue to be swept aside by the bigger clubs like Manchester United and Barcelona when it comes to the top honors. Fabregas was convinced to stay for at least one more season as Arsenal’s captain in the hopes that maybe this year would be different.
But ultimately it is almost a footballing inevitability that Fabregas will sign with Barcelona. A product of Barca’s legendary academy, Fabregas joined Arsenal at 17 and has become one of the English Premier League’s standout performers. And while he watches his Spanish international teammates Xavi and Andres Iniesta win game after game and award after award in La Liga, Fabregas remains frustrated with the lack of progress Arsenal have made during his time with the club.
The possibility of playing with two masterclass midfielders like Xavi and Iniesta must be quite appealing to the Catalonian. Could Barcelona assemble their very own big three and challenge for world domination? With their new shirt sponsorship deal paying them approximately 30 million euro per season, it is entirely possible. And like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Arsenal will have nothing but a scrapbook of memories and an inferior pay packet to entice Fabregas to come back for one more season. Expect Fabregas to be a Barcelona man by this time next season.
Charlie Klein is a new writer for The Yanks Are Coming. We’re happy to have him on board, and you can follow him on Twitter at @charlieklein.