Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Fabregas: I'd 'stagnated' at Arsenal so had to leave

Cesc Fabregas knows he has a fight on his hands for first-team opportunities at Barcelona but insists he had to leave Arsenal because he had "stagnated".

The midfielder returned to Barça this week to conclude one of the most protracted transfer sagas in the world. The Catalans paid an initial €29m (£25.2m) to sign their youth-team product after he made it clear he wanted to return to the Nou Camp. Fabregas has since spoken of his delight at completing the move but admits he faces the biggest challenge of his career now.

"The easiest thing would have been to stay at Arsenal," he told Barça TV. "I'm the captain, playing every game. We are always in the Champions League, always fighting for titles.

"For all that, and the tough competition here, perhaps now might be the worst time to return to Barça. It's going to be really tough to make the starting XI, but I needed a new challenge in my life. I thought I'd stagnated a bit, and needed a change of scenery. I needed a special motivation to bring the best out of myself."

Fabregas will fight for a midfield place with Xavi and Andres Iniesta, as well as youngster Thiago Alcantara. His signing is viewed as a long-term acquisition with a view to him taking over from Xavi in the future but Fabregas played down the suggestion.

"I don't know," he insisted. "I think that Xavi still has some years left in him. He does things you wouldn't believe. I haven't come to retire Xavi. I came here to play with Xavi, to compete with Xavi, and to win with Xavi."