Fabregas will slot into Barça team as power of Xavi and Iniesta fades

New recruit would not struggle to find a starting role at Nou Camp
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The Independent Football

There will be no captain's armband for Cesc Fabregas if gives up the Emirates for Nou Camp this summer but the idea that the jewel in Arsenal's crown will be outshone in Barcelona and even forced to watch the Spanish champions from the bench no longer carries any weight.

He struggled for minutes during Spain's European Championship success two years ago and part of the reason for that was the Barcelona pair Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta but Pep Guardiola's midfield resources were tested to the limit this season and Barça are not preparing to part with around £30m for a substitute.

Fabregas will start all important games – the only question is who will lose their place to him. If Iniesta's next season follows the pattern of his last two campaigns then Guardiola's mind will be made up for him.

In the 2008-09 season he was out for two months in November and although he came back in January he missed matches again in February and struggled for fitness during the run-in.

This season he was plagued by niggles in the same right thigh and picked up another more serious injury in the same area that ruled him out for the crucial last month of the campaign.

Iniesta only started 20 league games last season and in his absence Fabregas would line-up alongside Xavi, and Sergi Busquets. Xavi has a far better appearance record than Iniesta with 31 starts, but at 30 years of age Barcelona know he needs to be protected if he is to see out his contract which ends in 2014.

Fabregas is seen as the man who will conduct Barça's symphonies after Xavi has put down the baton and seven years his junior he may start doing that next season as the maestro is rested more frequently.

When Xavi and Iniesta are both available there is still little chance of Fabregas missing out. When he struggled to make that European Championship starting XI it was because of the form of Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso and Marcos Senna, who was one of the players of that tournament. Competition is not so intense at Nou Camp.

Fabregas would either play slightly deeper in place of Busquets, or Iniesta would be shifted forward to the left-hand side of Barcelona's attack where many at the club still believe he operates best.

Occasionally stepping back to replace Busquets, Barça's wiry midfield agitator who at times this season has stood out more for the number of times he has got opponents booked than for anything he has done with the ball, might be seen as a waste of Fabregas' attacking flair but he started his career in exactly that position in Barcelona's youth system and doubtless that famous Barça DNA that president Laporta has already insisted he has, will just kick-in to help him adapt.

Seydou Keita and Yaya Touré are the only other Barcelona midfielders – a shortage that saw them unsuccessfully try defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy in the holding role on several occasions this season. Keita is a team man who will not raise his voice if he finds himself on the bench more often than in the first team and Touré looks ready to leave the club even before Fabregas has arrived.

His agent Dimitri Seljuk last week said he thought his player was 90 per cent certain of not being at the club next season and he could yet be offered to Arsenal as part of the Fabregas deal. After a superb first season at the club Touré was mysteriously over-looked this campaign and Seljuk said this week: "He does not want to pick up his money and just sit on the bench. Perhaps if he had played in the semi-final against Inter, Barcelona would have won and reached the final."

With Touré gone, Iniesta fragile, Keita content and Xavi ready to pace himself, the stage would be set for Fabregas to rejoin his youth team pals from seven years ago, Gerard Pique and Leo Messi. The class of 2003 will be back together and it will be a reunion that takes place on the pitch, and not with Fabregas on the bench.