Cesc Fabregas interview: “I would be nobody without Arsene Wenger”
Cesc Fabregas has scored five goals, two for the national team, in 170 minutes of football since his return to Barcelona. Here he tells Luis Martín of El País of how things are going at the Camp Nou and of his special affection for Arsene Wenger.
- When did you know your time with Arsenal had come to an end?
I knew this would be my last year. We were in four competitions: League Cup, FA Cup, Champions League and Premier League, in which we were second, yet we ended up with nothing. But it was not because we had won nothing. I’d thought of returning for a long time and when Barca showed an interest it was clear I was going to Barca or staying at Arsenal. I never thought of leaving for money or for any other reason. It was only to go back home. There was no other option for me and I’ve had different offers since I was 18-years-of-age.
- Was one from Madrid?
It doesn’t matter. I don´t need to give names. But it is true I´ve had offers since I was aged 18.
- Did you feel as if Wenger had kidnapped you?
People have the wrong image of him. If it hadn’t been for him I would not be a Barca player because I wouldn’t have made my debut aged 16, wouldn’t have played in a Champions League final aged 18, wouldn’t have been captain aged 20...without him who knows where I would be now? I would also not be a Barca player because he helped me with Arsenal’s owners, who didn’t want to sell me under any circumstances. He convinced them. He put pressure on them to lower the price.
- He convinced them when you had to give up part of your salary so Barca could pay €34m?
No. He already knew what I wanted to do.
- Do you owe the Gunners a debt?
I’ve given them everything. My conscience is clear. I couldn’t have done any more. My statistics over the last seven years are there for all to see. My fitness was good. In terms of titles I am quite bitter that I didn’t win the Premier League despite being close three times. In that sense I’d have liked to have left something behind, but it wasn’t to be.
- What do you take away from London?
Lots of memories, the city... London will always be my city. I didn’t make great friends on a social level, but I left many friends in the dressing room, like Rosicky and Carlos Vela, people that were not only teammates. And without saying too much, Wenger. Without him I would be nobody. Not a World Cup winner or anything.
- Were you more sad to leave Arsenal or, at the time, Barca?
I think I was more immature when I left Barca. I was young. I didn’t think I’d ever play for the first team because then I wasn’t as I am now. Look at Andrés [Iniesta]. At 23-years-of-age he wasn’t in the starting line-up in Paris, and when I left he hadn’t even played. So I thought: “If Andrés didn’t play, where would I be?” I was young, so would have been in the youth team. When I went to London I started living much more than I had been doing. I knew what I’d left behind and where I was going but it’s true I was quite sad.
- How were you when Wenger said goodbye?
I’ll treasure it. I’ve had a lot of chats with him. I’ll remember his words all my life. That last day...phew! I couldn´t speak. I was very emotional and couldn’t talk. I called him later to thank him when I’d calmed down. He is 10 out of 10, with all his strengths and weaknesses, and what that man has given me is priceless.
- What has England taught you?
Well...imagine. I was 16, a child. Now, at least, I’m a young man. People might think it’s stupid, but what I learnt was English. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that one day everybody would be able to understand me. I also learned how to overcome difficulties.
- When you learned you were a Barca player what did you do?
Phoned my sister. I’d promised her.
- Your grandmother said, in Monaco, on Barca TV, that she’d never seen you so happy. Not even when you were eating soup out of china cups in London!
Imagine that! Sometimes I’m so happy I try to hide it. It’s shameful. I try to be serious, you know. It’s just that one day you are so happy and inside a month…I don’t want to say unhappy, but things could go wrong.
- Did you have an agreement with Barca two years ago?
No. I didn’t have an agreement with Barca until both clubs did the deal. Nor was it difficult. Before it was only words, nothing serious.
- Did you expect it to happen?
No. But it has exceeded my expectations. I don’t know what will happen from now onwards, but everything has gone so well I’d love it to continue. I still have much to do to get in this team. Just because I’ve recently won two titles and scored goals I don’t think I’ve done everything. The fans here want you to start off well, continue well and end well. Barca is one of those teams that demands the best of you every game, like Madrid or Manchester United. I’m never satisfied. I want to give more - and have to give more - to Barca.
- Tito Vilanova insists Barca have not signed Cesc the 16-year-old, but Fabregas, the Arsenal captain.
Tito was my last Coach at Barca and we won everything. I had a good relationship with him. I am very excited to be sharing a dressing room with him, with Leo [Messi] and Gerard [Piqué]. He is right. Eight years have passed very quickly. Now I think about it, it seems incredible. But it’s obvious I´m not the young boy I was, the one that played in the youth team.
- Did you sense then that Messi would be so good?
He was the best, but you never know. If somebody was going to make it then it was him, that was clear. He was the most balanced. Technically, he was always the best. Physically, you see him now and can’t knock him over. Before he was the smallest but, even though we were playing against older players, he still stood out. He’s very clever. He’s always on the prowl and sometimes it seems as if he goes quiet or has no character, but inside he is a born winner who is aware of absolutely everything.
- What has six years in the Premier League taught you in a football sense?
Lessons. Competitiveness. The football is more frenetic than the Spanish league, more disciplined and tactical, more contact, more play. Over there they don’t think about the scoreline. They attack even when they don’t need to. The crowd are so on top of you! The fans don’t like you to give up. Here you need more positional sense, more control to break through. There you go and go and, in the end, can only go so much. And the referees are more lenient, they allow more. Here they will book me for not retreating from the wall, but in England they said to me: “Come on Cesc, get back, come on! “
- Did they pronounce ´Cesc` well?
They pronounced it better in England than they do here.
- And they called you Fabregas...
No. In England they put Fabregas because you are obliged to use the surname and I decided to carry on with the one I had at Barca.
- Is it an advantage you came through Barca’s youth system?
No. I feel I’ve still got a lot to learn. This team is highly methodical and there are things I must learn. The fans see the goals, but I see other things. Especially in defence. I’ve never seen a team that concentrates so much on the transition between attack and defence. To play against Barca is very difficult, but to play for Barca is not so easy either. That is the challenge. I honestly think I’m still a bit of a handicap, but they are so good they sort it out and cover it up. I need to adapt to them. Defensively, I have a lot to learn.
- What is the first thing you learned at Barca?
That the hardest thing is to play easily. You see Messi, Iniesta and Xavi.. it’s so difficult to play so easily! And also to pressure teams like this one does is really difficult.
- The coaching staff are convinced y