As Fàbregas emerged to receive the acclaim of the Chelsea faithful for the last time on Saturday he broke down in tears. The ‘passing master’ is set to leave Stamford Bridge and English football for AS Monaco, in search of consistent playing time, to prolong an already glittering career.
As “Fàbregas is magic, he wears a magic hat…” rang out across the stadium for the last time, fans of Chelsea, Arsenal and English football in general must be forced to eulogise over one of the greatest central midfielders in the history of the Premier League.
Characterised by his superb range of passing, Cesc should also be remembered for his ability to change and develop his game to suit different leagues and the playing styles of antithetical managers.
Arsenal: The Breakthrough
Having graduated from La Masia at Barcelona, 16-year-old Fàbregas made the decision to move to England with Arsenal. Faced with competition from the likes of Xavi and Iniesta in central midfield for the Catalan giants, the promise of more playing time under the tutelage of Arsène Wenger with Arsenal was too good an opportunity to pass up. But a brave decision all the same for a 16-year-old to leave the comfort of his home in Barcelona, to move to London. It proved to be the right decision.
Arsenal were in a transitional period, with many of the ‘invincibles’ coming towards the end of their careers. Having moved to the capital in 2003 he started to make an impact in the first team the following season, eventually cementing the central midfield position after club legend Patrick Vieira left for Juventus. Initially maligned as a direct replacement for Vieira, which he was not, Fàbregas proved his class. Without the aggressive style of his predecessor, Fàbregas relied on his touch, flair and range of passing to bring something completely different to Arsenal’s midfield.
Wenger named Fàbregas as captain at the start of the 2008/09 season at just 21. By now recognised as one of the most creative central midfielders in Europe, he drew plaudits particularly through his Champions League performances. Although Arsenal, during his three years as captain, were competitive in the Premier League and consistently qualified for the Champions League, major honours alluded them. Fàbregas was the heartbeat of the team, and it was just a matter of time before suitors came calling.
Barcelona: The Successful Homecoming
He rejoined Barcelona at the start of the 2011-12 season to team up with his boyhood idol Pep Guardiola. In a team littered with talent, including Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquets and Lionel Messi with whom he emerged as a young player through the Barcelona academy, Cesc forced his way into the starting line-up.
Playing in a more attacking role than he was accustomed to at Arsenal, often in a false nine position, Fàbregas formed a great relationship with Messi and the other forward players. He was now a goal scorer as well as an assist master. In 96 La Liga appearances, Cesc scored 28 goals and made 37 assists.
After just three seasons in Catalonia, Fàbregas left FC Barcelona with six major trophies, including the 2012/13 Spanish La Liga title and the FIFA World Club Cup.
Chelsea: Unfinished Business in England