It is almost 10 years since Cesc Fabregas, aged just 16, made his Arsenal debut against Rotherham and while he is currently preparing himself for tomorrow’s much-anticipated Clásico with Real Madrid, it is clear the North London club is still very much a part of him.
He may be fortunate enough to play alongside players like Leo Messi, Neymar, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, but it is intriguing to wonder how he would slot into Arsenal’s current midfield – already boasting Mesut Özil, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey.
However it seems certain that one day he will return to the club, if only to pursue a coaching career.
“I’m sure they would give me the option to help out there,” he told the Daily Mail. “Sol Campbell is there at the moment. Dennis Bergkamp also went there two or three times a week to train when he was doing his coaching badges. It’s a great club in that sense.”
Considering Arsenal is the club that essentially created Fabregas as a footballer, it is not surprising that he sounds like a fan when talking about them – sharing in the collective hysteria following their latest super signing.
“If you have the chance to sign Mesut Ozil then you can’t let it pass you by,” he said to quash any suggestion that the club were already well stocked in that area.
“He wanted to play for Arsenal. Wenger won him over and when you have the chance with a player like that it doesn’t matter if you already have seven or eight who are similar, you have to take it.”
Of course Özil is a player that Fabregas knows only too well, particularly considering it was his pass that set up what was effectively a title-sealing goal from Cristiano Ronaldo two seasons ago.
“Ozil is the man who makes the difference in the final third,” Fabregas said. “He will find so much space in the Premier League and he’s a player who with space kills you. His final pass is brilliant. And he will score more goals in England than he did in Spain. He is a spectacular signing.”
“Ozil will bring the best out in Ramsey and Wilshere. They understand football the same way.
“‘The only player who maybe is a bit different is Theo Walcott but you also need that type of player because it’s true that at the end of pass, pass, pass you need a Pedro — someone who will get behind the opposition. Someone who gives depth and hits space.
“You need a Walcott or a Robin van Persie. The movement Van Persie gives you is incredible. Players of the quality of Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky, Ozil, Wilshere, you can never have enough.”
Fabregas also believes that another of Arsene Wenger’s summer signings, Mathieu Flamini, will prove crucial this season.
“That is what makes Arsenal special,” he said. “Because if you saw Flamini play at Milan he is not the same player and yet he was doing the same thing but it was not valued the same way.
“Arsenal have players who have great movement and Mathieu interprets that very well. And he runs something like 13km every match, something incredible. I am happy he is back.”
The Spanish international also reserved special praise for Aaron Ramsey after his fantastic start to the season.
“Ramsey’s stamina is spectacular. He and Flamini are the best I’ve ever seen in terms of covering the ground and being physically strong. And Wilshere is a little different from the typical English player.
“He is not a Steven Gerrard or a Frank Lampard, he is more of a short passer who keeps moving the ball around the pitch.
“Ramsey is one of those you look at and think, “You know what? He doesn’t stand out in anything in particular, but he does absolutely everything so well.
“His touch is good, his movement is good. Now he is scoring too. And he gives final passes, which we had not seen before. He is a beast of a team player. He and Wilshere have a brilliant future.”
On Arsenal’s trophy drought, Fabregas was honest about the past and remains reasonably optimistic that the blend of youth and experience in the squad will bring the positive results that have evaded them for so many years.
“In the end, it was a mental thing — when you lose the final of the Carling Cup against Birmingham who then were relegated... you can imagine how that feels. The manager gave a lot of freedom to the young players and that is why they are so good today, because he did not overload them with pressure but when things like that happen with the age of the side it’s tough.
“When everyone is so young it is difficult for someone to stand up and say, “Come on!” We often had meetings to solve the problem and they helped and we made sense of things but that experience was missing. Now they have found a very good balance. They have people there who have a lot of experience like Per Mertesacker and Mikel Arteta and Lukas Podolski.
“What the team has now is the strength of character that was maybe lacking in the past and was only ever going to come with age.
“They look very strong so far, so let’s just see how they last the season.
“There are a lot of games and we always know with the Premier League that sometimes you are going very well and then you lose two matches and you drop quickly, it’s very sudden.”
Since Fabregas left Arsenal for Barcelona he has picked up six trophies although he is under no illusions as to whom he should thank for the majority of his success as a footballer.
“At 16 I was training with Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires and Patrick Vieira. I’d played 50 games when I was still 17 and a Champions League final at 18.
“Aged 19 I had played in a World Cup final. If I had stayed at Barcelona I would have arrived more slowly, if at all, to those things."
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