Arsenal’s capture of Barcelona youngster prompts Catalan criticism

Arsenal and Barcelona continue to be talked about in the same breath. If it is not a discussion of their similar footballing philosophies, it is an analysis of their tightly poised Champions League last 16 encounter, or gossip on the chance of Cesc Fabregas making the move back to his boyhood club. The two have again been linked this week following comments from Barca president Sandro Rosell that Arsenal’s signing of 16-year-old midfielder Jon Miquel Toral Harper is “immoral”.

Losing a player described as the “new Fabregas” has clearly irked the Catalan outfit despite the deal reportedly being brokered by the brother of current manager Pep Guardiola. Rosell stated:

“It’s very important to keep this group of young lads together with a grounding in our way of playing football. We don’t like it when other clubs come with offers of money just before the [player’s] 16th birthday.”

It is not the first time a top Premier League club has come in for criticism from their European counterparts, but the difference with this situation is the complainant is a club with the elite standing of Barcelona. Previous high profile cases have involved Chelsea’s signing of Gael Kakuta, Paul Pogba’s move to Manchester United and Jeremy Helan’s move to Manchester City, all from French clubs. Premier League clubs are often viewed as wielding their substantial clout to temp these young starlets to a lucrative move to England. This case seems interesting as the choice was made to leave Barcelona.

Barca youngsters have made the move to England before, with Gerard Pique switching to United in 2004 and Fabregas himself being tempted away at the tender age of 16. The one thing both these moves share in common is the reported desire to seal a move back to the Camp Nou; Pique managing this is 2008 with the possibility of Fabregas making the same move as time progresses.

Pique struggled during his time in England, let go by United under the impression he was further behind in his progress than Jonny Evans, whereas Fabregas has clearly flourished. However, it seems a strange conundrum to want to leave a club of such talent who strive to give youngsters a chance in the first team.

Despite a similar emphasis on nurturing talent in France, there are clear reasons why a move to a Premier League club would be of benefit. Looking at Pogba, he is a vital part of United’s Youth Cup side and was named on the first-team bench for last weekend’s encounter with Crawley Town. A promising talent, his strength and ability set him apart when playing amongst his peer group and if he makes the grade at United, as it is thought he will, he’ll be playing Champions League football within the next couple of seasons. Something he would not have managed so soon had he stayed at Le Harve.

The situation for Toral Harper is a little murkier. Wenger may be adept at nurturing young talent and will give him his chance, but would this not have come at Barcelona? Looking at Fabregas, he has developed into a world class player but hasn’t hit the heights on the domestic stage that his talent has merited. Some may argue he would have, had he stayed put.

Whatever the case with Toral Harper if he is to be the next Fabregas, Wenger will certainly give him his chance, but all Arsenal fans must hope the lure of returning home doesn’t become too great.

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