Cesc Fabregas on FA Cup memories, losing his medals and why Antonio Conte isn't at fault for Chelsea's poor form

Interview: Fabregas looks back to his first FA Cup final in 2005 ahead of Chelsea's clash with rivals Manchester United at Wembley

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Saturday 19 May 2018 08:32
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FA Cup final in numbers

For Cesc Fabregas, there is an extra incentive to win at Wembley on Saturday, and it goes beyond saving Chelsea’s less-than-special season with what he describes as a “special trophy”.

It is because the FA Cup was the first professional trophy he won, and the medal from it is now lost. Fabregas says that’s absolutely not because of any disregard for the competition from a man who has won the World Cup – “I think if you are a bit of a romantic, the FA Cup is always very special. The crowd is always full” – but rather because of his father’s tendency to keep these mementoes a little too locked away.

“This one, I cannot find it,” Fabregas says of his 2005 medal. “I promise. My dad used to keep them and once I grew up, one day I said, ‘Listen, where are all my medals and stuff?’ He nearly lost the World Cup one even! It was in my mum’s house in a box. I have nearly all of them but I’ve lost two or three.

“I found [the World Cup] one. But this FA Cup one, I cannot find it.”

It is an even greater pity because that was one of a few big early games when Fabregas began to find himself as a player. Just like for the playmaker this year, that match was against Manchester United, but this was when he was a mere 18-year-old in his first season at Arsenal.

Despite that, and a below-par performance from Arsene Wenger’s side, Fabregas stood up to Roy Keane in a 0-0 draw before Patrick Vieira stepped up for the winning kick in the penalty shoot-out.

“I remember that final in a special way,” Fabregas says now. “It was my first big trophy as a professional at a very young age. I remember [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Wayne] Rooney, [Ruud] Van Nistelrooy, [Paul] Scholes, Roy Keane. It was a fantastic United team. It was one of the best teams that I faced.

“We played really bad, to be honest. We were lucky. I can say that now, I don’t care! I remember kicking Roy Keane in a good one-on-one. I won that one so I was happy.

Cesc Fabregas won the FA Cup in 2005 as an 18-year-old up-and-comer at Arsenal

“I got away because he was on the floor, so he could not say anything.”

Nor did Keane manage to get his own back later. “No, he couldn’t get hold of me,” Fabregas now laughs.

“Then I remember when Patrick scored the winner. I think it was his last kick as well for Arsenal. It was a nice moment. Good celebrations.”

There will be similar celebrations if Chelsea beat United on Saturday, but partly because they have endured such a bad season.

Fabregas is known as a “spiky” character among teammates when it comes to what it takes to win – backed up by, and someway explaining, the fact he has won so much. As such, the Spaniard was always going to be less content with this campaign than most, but does attempt to offer some context.

The Spaniard has a reputation for his ‘spiky’ character

He also pointedly puts it on the players rather than anyone else, even if manager Antonio Conte’s name is not once mentioned in his interview at Cobham.

“To be honest, to go and win a trophy is not that easy. Nowadays, how many top teams that are in Europe and you see at the end of the season, a lot of them do not win anything. Maybe they are close, maybe not. It is not easy to win titles in the league. In the Champions League, you play against Barcelona, they are one of the top teams in the world. You can win, you can lose. That can happen. In the FA Cup, we have done well.

“In the league, it is a little bit where we should have done better, we were not consistent enough in our performances and there is no explanation why one day we can be very good, one day after we are just not good enough. This is on us as players. We should have put it right when we had the chance to do it. We didn’t and we paid for it. It is a big disappointment, I’m sure for the club as well, because they want to be and are used to being in the Champions League every year. All we can do now is go on, win the final and give the fans a good end of the season.”

Fabregas said blame for Chelsea’s poor season rests with the players

It could also be at least a positive end to Conte’s time at Chelsea, with his future one of a few issues hanging over the club right now, but that has meant Fabregas’ future has gone under the radar.

At 31 years of age, he has just one year left on his contract, at a club that usually only offers annual rolling deals at that age.

“I don’t know. To be honest, all I want is to play on Saturday in the final. As we know in football, anything can happen. I’m very happy here, I must say. It is a fantastic club that treats me very well. I’m happy with the players. The club also needs to tell you if they want you or do not want you. It is not always up to me. But definitely I have a year left and let’s see what happens.”

Fabregas is certainly ready to make things happen on Saturday. “Perfect stage, perfect scenario against a great club at Wembley, nothing else you can ask for.”

Except, maybe, a new medal to replace the old one.

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