Fabregas now faces fight for Barca place

BARCELONA - Cesc Fabregas's Barcelona dream has finally come true, but the former Arsenal captain now faces a fight to earn a regular starting place with the European champions.

The 24-year-old is seen as the natural successor to Spain and Barca playmaker Xavi, who turns 32 in January, but it will not be easy to dislodge a man who is central to Barca's trademark possession-based game.

Barca's tried and tested midfield triumvirate of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets have secured three consecutive league titles and two European Cups since 2009.

The same trio have also helped keep Fabregas on the fringes of Spain's national team, but the reason Guardiola pushed so hard for the former Barca academy player is for his adaptability and his intimate knowledge of the Catalan club's playing style.

"Cesc's versatility hasn't gone unnoticed by Josep Guardiola," read a statement on Barca's official website.

"Fabregas can play in every midfield position. He can play as a defensive midfielder, on the left or right of midfield and even just behind the striker.

"At Arsenal he's shown that he can perform extremely well in all these positions... his vision of the game and goalscoring potential have never been in question."

Javier Mascherano provides a blueprint for the new arrival. The Argentine midfielder went straight from Liverpool to Barca's bench in 2010 but quickly demonstrated his value as a team player prepared to learn and bide his time.

Mascherano has swapped his more natural midfield habitat for the defence when required, as occurred again in Sunday's Spanish Super Cup first leg against Real Madrid, his composure on the ball perhaps being valued above other considerations.


Fabregas gives Guardiola options as they chase trophies on six fronts this season: the Spanish Super Cup, the European Super Cup, the World Club Cup, the King's Cup, La Liga and the Champions League.

Not only does Fabregas have established players to contend with, however, but hot on his heels he has Barca's latest youth system young gun Thiago Alcantara.

The 20-year-old midfielder debuted for Spain against Italy last week, was voted player of the final when Spain won the European Under-21 championship in June, and impressed against Bayern Munich and Manchester United in pre-season games.

"Barca are a team expert at interchanging positions and neither Cesc or Thiago will have problems adapting to this model," former Barca coach Radomir Antic told Sport recently.

Fabregas, who idolised Guardiola the player who bossed the midfield of Johan Cruyff's 1990s Barca team, knows he has the support of the club, the coach and the fans as a returning prodigal son.

Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes gave an indication of how pleased the side were to welcome back their former colleague, who left for Arsenal aged 16, when he spoke to reporters on Saturday.

"He is a great player, with tried and tested abilities," the Spain international said.

"He has loads of talent, he is ideal for our style of play."