The more you think about it, the more you realize Cesc Fabregas was thrust into an impossible situation by returning to Barcelona, and maybe this season, his third on the team, will finally give him the chance to shed off the shreds of criticism that simply won’t leave him since returning to the club he grew up in.

Cesc Fabregas was one of the biggest stars in the Premier League by the time he left Arsenal for Barcelona in 2011. The captain of an underachieving team, but possibly the best midfielder in the league, something that also showed on the stat sheets most of the time.

Cesc Fabregas

His arrival at Barcelona came after the second Champions League trophy in the Guardiola era, and the third consecutive title. In truth, there was no up from that situation, only down.

The biggest problem for Fabregas? He was brought in as an heir to a player who wasn’t even remotely close to retiring. Xavi might be older, but at that point there was no doubt about the Xaviesta tandem, later proven to be correct in Euro 2012, although that season and the tournament did show signs of the tiny playmaker slowing down.

Over the next two seasons Fabregas tried to fit in. He began strong, than faded away. He switched positions and was tried from time to time at the ‘Xavi Role’, but it didn’t work out. It seemed like Barcelona couldn’t operate correctly without Messi on the pitch or Xavi pulling the strings. But that didn’t last forever. Not the Messi reliance. That is still true. But Fabregas played great, at whatever role Guardiola and later Vilanova gave him, only no one seemed to notice.

Because they kept comparing him to either Messi in the false-striker role, or to Xavi in the playmaker role. But this season shows that he’s ready, and has been for quite some time, to be the man in the middle for Barcelona. He pushes further up the pitch and his off the ball movement is very different from Xavi’s. Andres Iniesta is probably the better passer, so the two-midfielders dynamic is forced to change.

Xavi isn’t out of it yet. He’s still a lineup player, only going through a stronger and more frequent rotational process that will see him resting more, leaving the team, in someway, in the hand of and legs of Fabregas. Despite the rumors of him wanting to leave, there doesn’t seem to be a better place for him right now. This season might be the first time that he proves and finally convinces those still doubting him that he’s the right man for the job for the years to come.

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