Arsenal, Cesc Fabregas and Barcelona could be the most public love triangle since Marilyn Monroe sang "Happy Birthday Mister President". It started with a sixteen year-old Fabregas moving to Arsenal from Barcelona and has dragged on interminably much of the past four years as player and boyhood club dream for his return to Catalonia. His story has dominated every transfer window - particularly summer - and public statements now lack all authenticity.
He will soon play for Barca. Chiefs of Arsenal and Barcelona will put heads together in such a way that his move will be agreed, if not this window then next year. However, the conduct of many Spanish parties has hardly covered Catlonia with glory. Publicly, Barcelona haven't shied from announcing their interest and have made bids which would make Harry Redknapp blush. Their outward decrying of respect for Arsenal is undermined almost totally by their conduct - and a galling sense of entitlement to the player.
Xavi wants him to come home. Barcelona wants him back. In fact, all of Spain wants Cesc Fabregas in La Liga. Even if he wanted to stay in North London, the clamour has been such that he may feel a Second Coming is necessary. On Monday Arsene Wenger asked why nothing has been done about this overt solicitation of his two biggest stars, Fabregas and Samir Nasri. Well he may.
While not strictly "tapping up" - where a player is approached illegally by a suitor club while still under contract - one is almost always swayed by the opinions of friends and others who say they wish the best for you. At the end of his contract this time next year, should Nasri sign with either of the Manchester clubs then an English FA inquiry will almost certainly be summoned. With Fabregas, it's much more tricky however as such any tribunal would have to operate across Football Associations.
Though not strictly "illegal", Barcelona are leveraging every conscious and unconscious tool at their disposal to unsettle the player. It would be hard to prove that Barcelona have broken any laws and indeed they may well not have. Their actions definitely violate another of those "unspoken laws", that of the spirit of the game. Thus, potential offenders are difficult to prosecute.
It's unlikely anything much can be done. The Spanish FA are unlikely to sanction the guilty parties, partly because they are so because they couldn't be seen to punish popular World Cup Champion Xavi and they too have a vested interest in having Cesc Fabregas play in La Liga. Much of the recent activity based around Cesc has been driven by Xavi and Estanislau Fors i Garcia*, the mayor of Fabregas' Catalonian hometown, Arenys de Mar. So with the English FA having no jurisdiction on continental soil, FIFA navel-gazing and UEFA unwilling or unable to involve itself in football's on-beat policing, to who else can Arsenal complain?
With such incidents increasing in scope and frequency (think Federico Macheda, Paul Pogba and Gael Kakuta) then FIFA needs to step in. It's best if clubs police themselves through a formal framework. The only way to stamp this out is for yet another independent tribunal. Given the global reach of this issue, it must be orchestrated by FIFA. (Shudders violently) After it's second conscutive annus horribilis, this could be the first step in re-establishing FIFA's control of the game rather than just over its marketing rights.
*(Comparisons to kidnapping and slavery are of course ridiculous. Footballers sign contracts as independent businessmen, mostly advised by agents or parents, motivated by love and/or money.)