James Lawton: Barça's take on this saga speaks volumes on the state of English football

Who, really, can we see storming the high ground Barcelona have claimed? You wouldn't invest the mortgage on Chelsea

It was not enough for Barcelona to consign the Premier League, along with the rest of the European game, to the margins of the extravagant ball they staged on a spring night at Wembley.

Now they treat the man who used to be the crown jewel of Arsenal, Cesc Fabregas, as an optional extra, a nice, sparkling little item to have lying around on the dressing room table.

Barça's admission that while their native son Fabregas is considered a potentially valuable asset he still lags some way behind the Udinese striker Alex Sanchez as their No 1 target is doubtless no more than an honest assessment of their strategic priorities.

Still, though, it must hurt not only Arsène Wenger and the Arsenal faithful who down the years have imagined the day when he would carry them back to some of the old creative certainties.

Also damaged, surely, is the idea that the failures of English football last season, when it fell so far below the level of power and menace it had so long assigned to itself, can be quickly repaired when the new season kicks off in less than a month.

Who, really, can we see storming the high ground Barcelona claimed so emphatically?

Chelsea under the zealous – or given some of his early pronouncements, maybe naïve – leadership of wonder boy coach Andre Villas-Boas? You wouldn't want to invest the mortgage, would you, however hard he bangs on about his duty to Roman Abramovich to deliver the Champions League title that proved beyond Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and even the resourceful Guus Hiddink. Not when the entire new trouble-shooting force after last season's miserable decline looks likely to be no broader than the brilliantly gifted but not overpowering Luka Modric and the Anderlecht tyro Romelu Lukaku.

Manchester United, who were so easily dismantled by Barça at Wembley, have made big-money investments in David de Gea, Phil Jones and Ashley Young but the word is that they are unprepared to meet the pay demands of Wesley Sneijder, the one player on their wish list who had proved he could deliver at the highest level in midfield – the place where United were ultimately so profoundly exposed by the sublime axis of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi.

This leaves the blockbusting possibility that Manchester City will finally jettison their talented but also tedious ingrate Carlos Tevez and bring in Diego Maradona's son-in-law Sergio Aguero and maybe Sneijder. This has the whiff of serious business – and another advance for a team who by the end of last season were beginning to suggest they might just reward Roberto Mancini for believing in them a little more.

However, in a high summer of brilliant sport – with Sachin Tendulkar promising to maintain at Lord's over the next few days the superior entertainment levels already produced by the likes of Novak Djokovic, Darren Clarke and Tom Watson – it cannot be said that the English pre-dinner football cocktail has had the taste buds standing on ends.

This time last summer there was every reason to believe that Chelsea would march on beyond the formidable levels achieved in Ancelotti's immediate annexation of the League and Cup Double. Now, after a season of ultimate misadventure, we have the upwardly mobile Villas-Boas telling us of the inevitability of that European triumph.

However, his plan to make Chelsea "football untouchables" would seem to need quite a bit more youthful and outstandingly gifted flesh on its bones.

Villas-Boas declares: "In the next years the trophy will arrive in this club. Chelsea have been in two semi-finals and also one final in recent times. I don't see why we can't go on and win it. Based on the trophies these players have won before and the success they have had, aren't these the players you want in the end? Could be, no?" His methods are apparently inspiring rather more enthusiasm among senior players at Stamford Bridge these days than when he, as Jose Mourinho's youthful scout of opposition, besieged them with videos and dossiers. This is, of course, the way of football and no doubt Villas-Boas can bank on some sharpened effort among the Chelsea warhorses in the first passionate flush of his leadership.

Indeed, Frank Lampard, who with John Terry has in his professional survival kit a so far flawless ability to shift with each new phase of an erratic Chelsea story, insists: 'Everything is very fast and intense. There hasn't been one training session where people can relax or be sloppy.

"The fact Andre is such a young manager is irrelevant. There is a nice freshness, a new style and different training methods from last year."

Of course, Carlo is dead, long live Andre. It is, like quite a bit else in English football this summer, perhaps not the most thrilling of battle cries. But then, who knows, maybe there is a little revolution in the air. Perhaps if Cesc Fabregas finally says Adios, it will not be just another reason to sigh. It is, at least, a pretty thought.

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own