In light of renewed speculation linking Cesc Fabregas with a loan move from Chelsea to AC Milan in January, ESPN FC takes a look at how a temporary switch would suit both parties.
He'd get to play regularly and show his quality -- A rocky last 18 months have made it easy to forget just how good Fabregas is. He remains one of the most creative midfielders of his generation, capable of regularly executing passes that many other footballers never even see. He needs a team and manager who value his qualities more than they worry about his athletic limitations and the slower, more technical, style of Serie A seems like a good fit.
Chelsea might realise what they miss? -- Antonio Conte's bold switch to a 3-4-3 system has given the team momentum right now, but there will come a time this season when Chelsea's Plan A doesn't work. By going on loan to the right club, Fabregas might only need time and good performances for the creative limitations of the Nemanja Matic-N'Golo Kante axis to be contrasted against the vision and playmaking ability he brings elsewhere.
It would help him win his Spain place back -- Fabregas' demotion to the bench this season has hurt more than his club career. Julen Lopetegui has yet to include the 29-year-old in his Spain squad since succeeding Vicente del Bosque in the summer, and has far too many options to select players not getting regular exposure for their clubs. Playing for Spain is important to Fabregas and has yielded the greatest triumphs of his career. At 29, he's still young enough and good enough to play a key role again in the lead-up to Russia 2018.
It would be the end of his Chelsea career -- For all the potential benefits, leaving on loan would be an admission of defeat for Fabregas, as well as an acknowledgment that his Chelsea career is over unless he outlasts Conte. Given the Italian's promising start to life at Stamford Bridge that looks an unlikely scenario and Fabregas' departure -- even on a temporary basis -- would make Chelsea's new head coach even more determined to move the squad on without him.
He can still be useful to Conte -- The Premier League is a marathon rather than a sprint, and asks a lot of different questions of any squad with title aspirations. Fabregas' creative gifts make him a useful weapon to have on the bench, as well as a high-calibre alternative should injury befall Kante or Matic. It is difficult to see Conte sanctioning any deal unless he can secure a replacement who would fit in right away.
Chelsea would probably prefer a sale -- Letting Fabregas leave for six months on loan does little to aid Conte's rapid evolution of the Chelsea team and could well hurt the club's more immediate ambitions unless a suitable replacement is found. He is too valuable and earns too much to linger on the books at Stamford Bridge if he is no longer vital. Selling him would give Conte more to work with when re-modelling his squad.
He'd have to leave London -- There would clearly be takers for Fabregas, but the chances of Chelsea sanctioning a move to a London rival are very slim (Petr Cech was an exception). Returning to the capital was a key factor in the Spaniard's decision to join Chelsea from Barcelona in the summer of 2014. He is settled and with girlfriend Daniella Semaan pregnant with the couple's third child, leaving now would be particularly difficult.
In pure footballing terms, a loan move away from Chelsea in January is probably best for Fabregas' immediate career prospects -- even if a sale would better suit his club. The limitations that Conte sees in his game are not problems that a 29-year-old can solve, and all the signs are that the Italian will not be going anywhere soon. But as well as representing a professional blow, leaving Chelsea would also require personal sacrifices. It's the worst crisis of Fabregas' distinguished career for a reason, and there are no easy solutions.