Prior to the World Cup, Cesc met with Arsene Wenger and almost certainly told him that he wanted a transfer to Barcelona. Cesc then went off to play for Spain and won the World Cup in a side dominated by Barcelona players. Before and after the World Cup, Barca players popped off in the press (in an increasingly unseemly fashion) about how Arsenal should sell Cesc to Barca. This campaign culminated in Pique and Carles Puyol putting a Barca jersey on Cesc at the team's post-tournament celebration in Madrid.
In the end, the transfer has not gone through and Cesc remains at Arsenal. There are a variety of potential explanations. One is that Arsenal value Cesc more than Barca do (and more than he would be worth on the open market). Barca have a bevy of top players; Arsenal are totally dependent on Cesc. A second is that Barca might have overestimated their ability to get a good price for Cesc based on the fact that the market for Cesc is a closed market. In theory, if Cesc will only go to one club, then Arsenal can't command full market value, but it hasn't played out that way. A third is that Cesc is an exemplary professional, a guy who wants to leave, but didn't make his feelings known by handing in a transfer request or mouthing off in the papers. (Too bad he's not Adebayor.) A fourth is that Barca might not have the money to sign him. The incoming club president, Sandro Rosell, has claimed that the club has a massive debt problem. (The debt issue is overblown by Rosell for political reasons. Rosell hates outgoing president Joan Laporta and he knows that he cannot criticize the results on the field in the Laporta era, so he has to rip apart the club's books.) A fifth is that Wenger and Cesc might have reached a Ferguson-Ronaldo compromise that Cesc will give Arsenal one more year and then they will let him go at a reasonable price.
In any event, I thought about the saga this morning when reading Arsene Wenger's comments on the EPL's new squad rules:
In my opinion – and it's not [the Premier League's] opinion – if you are a great player, you want to play with great players. If you are a great musician, you want to play in an orchestra with the best musicians. If you offer the guy the chance to play in an orchestra with poor musicians, he will not be happy.
I couldn't have said it better myself. Cesc can stay at a club that has sat on its hands and not addressed crying needs at goalkeeper and in central defense or he can play with the teammates with whom he has won the European Championship and the World Cup. (Note: Arsenal do have until the end of the month to right this failing.) He can play with Diaby and Denilson or Xavi and Iniesta. Which orchestra has the best musicians, Arsene?
Incidentally, I totally agree with Wenger's comments about the EPL's new squad rules. The league will be hurt by the imposition of a quota of domestic players. As long as England isn't producing top players, then the problem will lie with the development system. The squad rules will simply force clubs to deploy players who are not the most deserving. Wenger's comments are self-serving (Arsenal have relatively few English players, mainly because Wenger smartly refuses to pay extra for a nationality) and he's trying to excuse his inactivity in the transfer market by saying that the new rules have tightened the market. Nevertheless, he's absolutely right. It's refreshing to read the comments of a trained economist as opposed to the ususal "we were robbed of a clear penalty" tripe that comes from most EPL managers.