"Well, what did you expect?" - the fairly simple answer to a couple of issues troubling Cesc Fabregas these days. The conundrums in question being a) why he doesn't play more often for Barcelona and b) why his words are being exaggerated by a media desperately snuffling about for sexy stories during the international break?
Rewind a year and the former Arsenal player looked like he couldn't have been happier. The versatile midfielder had put everyone out of their misery as well as ending his own by finally completely a move back to Catalunya and his home-town club after eight years of exile in England. As soon as the footballer arrived at the Camp Nou the medals rained down from the heavens after a bit of a drought with Cesc picking up a European Super Cup trophy (and scoring in the Porto clash too) as well as winning a Spanish Super Cup double header against Real Madrid.
The league campaign got off to an absolute flyer with the midfielder scoring in his first four Primera encounters for his new club and Pep Guardiola praised the English inspired 'anarchy' that his new recruit had brought to the clockwork precision and predictability of Barcelona's play. The arrival of Fabregas felt like a gate-crasher of the more desirable kind at a party that was becoming a little flat.
A year later and Fabregas now feels like the invite stuck in the kitchen that no-one wants to talk about, the footballer who only gets a game because someone else is out, the player who can't find what he feels is his rightful place at a club where he began his football career. The frustration from the midfielder reached a peak during the side's victory over Valencia at the Camp Nou with the footballer hearing boos from some supporters when being substituted with half an hour to go after a performance where Fabregas looked lost and where chances were booted over the bar. The sense that Cesc is a very square peg in Barcelona's very round hole has never been greater, the sense that Barcelona bought the midfielder because they should rather than because the club needed to, at least in the short term. 'Barcelona have problems in giving him a fixed spot,' explained Josep Minguella in Mundo Deportivo.
After reflecting on the Valencia game the midfielder told Radio Marca that "the manager knows what I can offer. But across the three positions that I can play in, I am competing against the three best players in the world." This was always going to be the problem for Fabregas from the moment he left London - how to find a role in one of the best club sides in the history of world football without waiting for the rest of the team to retire.
At the same time as these rumblings of discontent, there were rumours of a loan deal to Milan - probably nonsense, but unthinkable last season when Cesc scored nine league goals, but not wholly incredible with the boos ringing in his ears after the Valencia game.
The timing of those comments could not have been worse with Cristiano Ronaldo also claiming discontent at his club. However, the comment from Cesc that "there's no such thing as a great substitute in world football" was spun desperately in the Barcelona media as merely the words of a player out of form and feeling frustrated rather than a carbon copy of the troubles being suffered by Real Madrid and their superstar. Fabregas himself tweeted that he didn't want to cause any misunderstanding and announced that "he was very happy at the club and felt very supported by the fans and the whole team".
But the fact of the matter is that he may have to continue sitting on the bench or walking on and off the pitch as a substitute for another campaign or even longer. To escape that fate, two things need to happen aside from serious injury to rivals. The form of Leo Messi, Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta needs to dip considerably to allow Cesc to take up one of the three positions where he says he can play. The performances of Fabregas will need to improve too, but that may not happen whilst he is shunted around the pitch into different spots from forward to the centre of the park.
All in all it's a sticky situation for Cesc with no easy way out, aside from leaving the club - something that he claims has never entered his thoughts. Only two immediate solutions present themselves - being immensely patient or playing his way into the starting XI. But that was always going to be the case when Cesc made the decision to return to a house that no longer feels like home.
This article first appeared on Football365 here.