“Not bad Boss, not bad at all. I should be moving freely before June 11”.
“Good. I hope your federation will look after you properly during the tournament”.
“They will Boss. They always do”.
“Your family, all well I hope?”
“Yes they are fine thanks Boss”.
“Well. I have read the reports, spoken to your agent. It seems quite clear that you wish to speak to me about your future but I cannot understand why now, as you previously signed an eight year contract with us in 2006?”
“That was then. This is now. I have always given my all for this club. You know that. I also stated I wanted to return and play for my home club at some stage of my career. That time is now and I want to sort this out before the World Cup”.
“Yes but I still cannot understand why now? I realise we have not won a trophy in the past few years…”
“C’mon Boss, it has been five years. Are we any closer to changing that next season?”
“I honestly think that we are, yes. You know what we are trying to build here. It takes time. You knew that when you joined as a 16-year-old. We have a budget that we were asked to stick to with the building of the new stadium. A philosophy of bringing in raw talent, nurturing it and building a squad that can sustain a challenge at the top of the table and in Europe year after year. The trophies will come once this young side had matured and we add one or two more…”
“Sorry boss, I understand all that but I have heard you say the same thing season after season. I believe in what you are trying to do, I really do. I believe in the footballing philosophy but there needs to be an end product. Success, trophies, glory…”
“Have you not already achieved success, trophies and glory here?”
“Not enough. And not enough in the last five seasons…”
“Is this about money?”
“Money? You know how much I love this club and I am thankful for what you have done for me. Plenty of friends and family urged me to leave over the years but I stayed out of loyalty to you and the fans. It was never about money.
Look Boss while we bring in young talent year after year and stick to a budget, United, Chelsea and even that other lot down the road are spending big and reaping the rewards. Why should I not aspire to win trophies elsewhere if I believe there is nothing more I can do for this club unless top quality talent is brought in?”
“There is no question about your commitment on the field for us. You have consistently been my best player and I have always stood by you but why should I pay inflated wages and transfer fees for mavericks that will leave after a season or two anyway to make more money elsewhere?
The transfer system is inflated. We stick to a budget and are now financially secure and do not require the input of a Russian oligarch or rich American investor. Soon we will be self sufficient and be able to attract the better players without worrying about spiralling debts.
This club will grow even stronger in the next few seasons and I guarantee success will come our way if you decide to stay. All I am asking for is a little patience”.
“Your guarantee sounds a little hollow when you consider the same promise of a top-four finish made by a fellow Spaniard at his club last season and look at where there are at now”.
“Answer me something then. Are your home town club that different from us in the way they play the beautiful game?”
“Are they not built on the same traditional values and belief of bringing through young talent rather than splashing out in the transfer market?”
“Will you be guaranteed your starting place amongst their squad once you have signed? Are you certain of playing every game?”
“Will you be guaranteed the top spot in the team, the centre-piece around which the club will be built?”
“Will you even be guaranteed the success and trophies you crave?”
“Then why leave a squad is that respects you, a team that is built around you, a fan base that adores you, a wage comparable with most top players in this league, a chance to challenge for the title with a few more acquisitions?”
“Even though all those points you have just mentioned may be true it has always been a question of when I would join Barcelona, not if. You don’t owe me anything and Arsenal will receive a sizeable transfer fee.
I just want to go home. I have given my best for this club, for you and the fans. Can you understand I just want to go home?”
“There is nothing I can say to persuade you to stay then?”
“No Arsene, there is not”.
“Then I wish you well Cesc and on behalf of the fans. Thanks. I cannot say for sure when or even if the board will sanction such a transfer though. You are sure you want to leave?”
“Yes I am sure. Thanks for everything but it was inevitable I would one day want to return home. That day is today.”
Ger McCarthy is author of the book entitled \’Off Centre Circle’, published by the Evening Echo, which chronicles the curious life of a West Cork amateur soccer player.