DUBAI // Cesc Fabregas is proving himself to be as vital a cog in Arsenal's well-oiled machine as his goal-scoring midfield counterparts Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes and Steven Gerrard have become with rival English Premier League giants Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool.
It is understandable that the inspirational Fabregas is looking longingly at what increased fame and fortune could come his way in his native Spain if he reacts favourably to overtures from the big two there - Barcelona and Real Madrid. The outstanding young talent on whose yet-to-mature shoulders Arsenal's hopes of a 14th league title and a first trophy for four years principally depend, was urged, however, to forsake those lucrative offers and become a cornerstone of what is potentially his London club's greatest ever dynasty under the astute guidance of their manager Arsene Wenger.
That heartfelt plea to Fabregas came before the Gunners playmaker made a triumphant return to the ranks after his latest injury lay-off to convert the clinching penalty in Saturday's crucial London derby victory over West Ham - his 18th goal of a productive season. It was delivered by one of his illustrious predecessors from the Highbury days - Anders Limpar, the former Sweden international who played for the club's Legends in the recent Emirates Airline Dubai Football Sevens.
"I remember when I was coming to the end of my four-year contract hoping and praying that I would get another one and then being told by George Graham [manager in that 1993/94 season] that I wasn't required any more," said Limpar. "I was devastated. Arsenal are such a big club and an institution within the game. Some players don't realise that until they have moved on. "But with the manager on the verge of building yet another fantastic team this could be the best period ever to be an Arsenal player and I would urge Fabregas to take that into account.
"Footballers have for many years taken the view that the grass is greener on the other side but here is a big exception in my view. Fabregas should stay where he is, be patient, and carry on being at the heart of what Wenger is trying to accomplish." Limpar suggested that Fabregas's desire to remain at the Emirates Stadium would increase considerably if his skills ultimately see Arsenal prevail over United and Chelsea in what promises to be an exciting Premier League title run-in.
"I think that's going to happen," said Limpar. "Arsenal have a much friendlier list of fixtures than the other two and I can see them winning the league again. That would clearly improve their chances of keeping Fabregas at the club." Arsenal have already taken steps to extend the stay of their biggest playing asset. Despite Fabregas being two months short of his 23rd birthday and having three years to run on his present contract, the board have apparently drawn up a lucrative new deal reputed to be worth £30million (Dh165m) over five years.
"I hope he signs another contract," said Limpar, who won 58 international caps for Sweden during a well-travelled career which lasted nearly 20 years. "It is so important to the long-term plan of the manager. Wenger is a magician and I reckon he's going to be in charge for at least another four years before going upstairs to become a terrific point of contact for his successor. "If he's given the funds to buy three or four world-class players to go with the ones he is bringing through the club's academy then the team could smash everything in front of them in that time.
"The future is so exciting for Arsenal under Wenger, providing the big players continue to believe in him." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org