Sherlock Holmes relaxed in his study at 221b Baker Street, his meerschaum pipe resting on the table in front of him against his Chelsea 2012 Champions League Winners commemorative mug. “Holmes!,” I expostulated, “How can you remain so calm? Have you not observed the latest transfer rumours in the evening newspapers?”
Holmes merely smiled at my impetuosity. “Calm yourself, my dear Watson,” he said. “I have, naturally, made myself aware of the most recent speculation and intrigue. And I assure you that whatever scurrilous scrap of guttersnipe gossip has attracted your fancy on this occasion, the truth is very far from what it seems.”
“Whatever do you mean, Holmes?” I asked.
“Consider, Watson, the curious case of the Cesc Fabregas transfer saga. Do the circumstances surrounding this extraordinary tale not fascinate and confound you? But with a little observation and deduction that even you, my dear doctor, are capable of, we will surely uncover the facts at the very centre of this conundrum.”
I listened attentively. This was sure to be one of Holmes’s famous three-pipe problems.
“First of all, Watson, we are told that Senor Fabregas is holding negotiations with representatives from Manchester United Football Club. And yet – despite the club’s very obvious want of a powerful central midfielder – there is no sign of an offer from that august institution. Do you not regard that as peculiar?”
“Most definitely, Holmes. I remember remarking on it at the time.”
“Then, news reaches us that his previous employers at Arsenal have made contact. Not to be outdone, Mr Mansour at Manchester City is also said to be considering an offer for this much sought-after Spaniard. Are you following me so far, Watson?”
I nodded, and moved closer so as to catch every word of the great detective’s exposition.
“One would have thought, would one not, that a man in such demand would be much prized by his current club? And yet Barcelona have uttered no “hands off” warning, nor have they set a prohibitive pricetag designed to ward off predatory clubs. They have not uttered so much as a word. They are like the dog that, if you recall from one of your earlier histories of our adventures, did not bark.”
“Fascinating, Holmes,” I gasped. “Whatever can it mean?”
“Can you not see?” sighed Holmes. “Then consider the events of today. First we receive news via the electronic Twitter medium that Arsenal have told the worthy senor that they will not be requiring his services next season. Then the Sky Sports broadcasting company lets it be known that their informants at Manchester City have dismissed reports of their interest in the Spaniard. And still we have no word of an offer from their neighbours in Salford.
“Finally, we hear from the Iberian peninsula that our own dear Chelsea, no less, are close to procuring Senor Fabregas’s signature. And we are told this must be the case because of the sad departure of that colossus among footballers, Mr Frank Lampard.” (And here Holmes put his hands together and raised his gaze respectfully to the heavens).
“I see, Holmes,” I cried. “You think Senor Fabregas is bound for Stamford Bridge!”
“You see nothing at all, my dear Watson,” he chuckled kindly. “Consider why Barcelona have not made a comment. Consider also why these clubs that are apparently falling over themselves to sign Senor Fabregas are in fact falling over themselves not to. Surely it is clear that it is Barcelona who have been discreetly planting the newspaper stories about his imminent departure and the negotiations with various employers because they are desperate to get rid of him and are trying to start a bidding war.”
I sat nonplussed, simply staring at the great man.
“Consider, too,” continued Holmes, “Barcelona’s desire to bring in the admirable Koke from Atletico Madrid, and their financial concerns in the wake of the Neymar tax scandal. They must raise funds quickly to finance their planned purchase. It all slips into place, does it not?”
“So is Fabregas not going to be playing for Chelsea?” I asked, somewhat disappointed.
“Ah, there you have me, Watson. It is quite possible. He must, after all, end up somewhere. My brother Mycroft sneers at the possibility, of course, and claims Senor Fabregas would never work under Sir Jose Mourinho. But Mycroft is of course an Arsenal fan and therefore not to be trusted.”
“My word, Holmes,” I said. “I think you’ve cracked it. That’s quite brilliant.”
“Not at all, my dear Watson,” he disclaimed, picking up his pipe. “It’s merely elementary.”