Who holds the aces in the three-way negotiation between Arsenal, Cesc Fabregas and Barcelona? Ultimately, outstanding footballing talent carries a huge amount of bargaining power, but the two football clubs involved still hold some powerful cards.

There is of course a 3-way negotiation going on.

In the negotiation between Fabregas and Barcelona, Fabregas holds the ‘market power’ associated with being an outstanding talent in a limited pool of exceptional players. Demand exceeds supply for a resource such as his. Barcelona have some market power of their own though. They are arguably the best club side in the world currently, with a midfield packed full of international stars. They are also the desired point of entry for Fabregas back to his native Spain. This gives them a certain amount of ‘network power’ – as gatekeepers to a grouping to which Fabregas wants access. I would assess the balance of this negotiation as a 2-2 scoring draw.

What about the balance of bargaining power between Arsenal and Fabregas? The market power that Fabregas has as a key talent is even greater with Arsenal than Barcelona. Having failed to win a trophy for 5 years will have weighted another key aspect of bargaining power against Arsenal. They need to retain a talismanic talent like Fabregas. The negotiating authority that Arsene Wenger would have had when Fabregas first joined the club as a 16 year old will have diminished, not just as a result of the Spaniard’s maturing talent, but also as a result of Wenger and Arsenal’s comparative lack of success over the last 5 years. I would score this negotiation 3 Aces to 1 in favour of the player.

And the balance of power between Arsenal and Barcelona? Barcelona have the advantage which stems from team Arsenal being dis-united. A negotiating team is only as strong as its weakest link and Fabregas has already made clear that he no longer wants to be part of his own team.

Arsenal do have one advantage though. This is the power that comes from having ‘law’ or ‘regulation’ on your side – in this case a binding contract. The Gunners could use this to kybosh any move by their current star. Bear in mind that Barcelona will have generated a ‘cool’ or ‘hostile’ climate in the negotiation with Arsenal by approaching the player directly, so the Gunners may not be in the mood to play ball with anybody at the moment.

However, this would be something of a ‘lose/lose’ strategy, since keeping an unhappy player at a club is not renowned for generating a happy dressing room. Arsenal and Wenger are probably too shrewd for that. Instead they will marshal the bargaining power their contract gives them, and sooner or later, this season or next, they will let Fabregas go for a big fee.

Barcelona hold the balance of power in their negotiation with Arsenal and will use that to secure a win – even if it takes some extra time.