At 19, Cesc Fàbregas was starting for Arsenal in a Champions League final shortly before heading to a first World Cup – four years later he was setting up Andrés Iniesta to give Spain a first world crown.
On Tuesday night against Chelsea, he lumbered around, typifying Barcelona’s inability to pose any sort of threat at Camp Nou.
Fàbregas had 13 goals by 8 January this year, but hasn’t found the net since – and if last week’s hack when faced with virtually an open goal in front of him is anything to go by, that stat won’t be changing any time soon.
Fàbregas has always struggled alongside a ball-playing midfielder.
He is the long-term successor to Xavi but the pair seem to struggle when playing together, and the even bigger issue is that Fàbregas, as part of a front three, is just nowhere near effective.
Barça have always been at their strongest when Iniesta, Xavi and one other are part of a three-man midfield, with first Thierry Henry and then David Villa playing on the left of a front three.
With Villa out of action, Pep Guardiola can be forgiven for trying to get his best players on the pitch. But as it stands, Fàbregas is not one of those best players.
Few people will have had more reason to cheer last night than José Mourinho.
Not only is the route to European glory now open for his Real Madrid side but he also got to see his former employers, who he remains very close to, enjoy arguably the best night in their history.
After last weekend’s El Clásico victory everyone sounded off about how Mourinho had finally got the Barcelona monkey off his back.
But the Portugese’s head-to-head record with Guardiola still does not make for pretty reading and the chance to take on a Chelsea side deprived of a number of key players through suspension will have him grinning from ear to ear.
But there is the small matter of Wednesday night’s semi-final against Bayern Munich to contend with first but if they can emerge victorious then Mourinho stands on the verge of history.
A league and European cup double is an achievement in itself but will also make him the first manager to win the Champions League with three different clubs while also writing his name in the record books with a domestic crown in four of Europe’s toughest leagues.
Bayern Munich will have certainly have something to say about it but Mourinho appears to have a date with destiny.
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