Fabregas forced to wear Barcelona shirt

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The Independent Football

Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique forced Cesc Fabregas to briefly wear a Barcelona shirt during Spain's World Cup victory celebrations in Madrid last night.

The Barcelona defenders grabbed the Arsenal midfielder, who is eager to move to the Nou Camp, and managed to pull the shirt over his head as the team stood on stage in front of a huge gathering of supporters.

Barcelona are keen to sign the 23-year-old, who came up through the youth ranks at the Catalan giants before moving to Arsenal as a youngster, and had a big-money offer turned down by Arsenal before the World Cup began.

Fabregas nevertheless seemed reluctant to let his Spain team-mates dress him in the famous blue and red shirt during the prank, no doubt aware how it could be interpreted.

Spain were received as national heroes as approximately a million fans came out to welcome home Vicente Del Bosque's team, following their 1-0 win over Holland in the Johannesburg final.

They met King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, and took an open-top bus ride through the streets of the Spanish capital.

Coach Del Bosque said at a brief presentation: "This cup, this triumph is for all of you, and for the whole Spanish football factory."

Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos and Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina were at the centre of the players' celebrations on the team bus as the parade inched its way down Madrid's Gran Via.

Supporters passed the time by championing the team's World Cup final goal hero Andres Iniesta, chanting in Spanish: "Thanks to Iniesta, Spain is in fiesta."

As the players finally arrived at the last stop of their circuit around central Madrid, they were greeted by a huge sea of celebrating fans.

Once the whole 23-man squad plus the coaching and backroom staff made their way onto the stage, various members of the party spoke to the assembled supporters.

Captain Iker Casillas, the Real Madrid goalkeeper, said: "I don't know what to say, only that I'm delighted to be here with you. We (the players) have achieved the dream that we've all had since we were small."

Coach Del Bosque added: "It's not only winning but how you win, and that's what these players have done, they are an example to all. Thanks for all the support you've sent to us in South Africa, you are also world champions."

Iniesta, holding a toy octopus in reference to Paul, the sea creature based in a German aquarium made famous for correctly predicting winning teams during the World Cup - including Spain in the final - joked: "Thanks to the octopus we are champions. I only want to say that you should be proud of this group. They're the best. I'm very proud to be part of them."