FA Cup third-round clash against Nottingham Forest, 85 minutes on the clock, Cesc Fabregas took a glance at the fourth official’s board, saw his #4 flash in red, probably for the final time at Stamford Bridge.
At that moment, he knew it was over, the forty thousand Chelsea fans, who were cheering their lungs out to make him feel special, knew as well. He hugged Eden Hazard, and later, Maurizio Sarri, on his way out, tears still rolling down his cheeks.
The night, like his Premier League career, was full of highs and lows. His overall performance was worthy of all the applause, but the spot-kick he failed to convert seemed like an accurate reflection of his struggles as a player. Loved by millions and hated by thousands; in many ways, Cesc Fabregas is the perfect embodiment of a conflicted modern-day superstar.
An emotional farewell for Cesc Fabregas 👋😢pic.twitter.com/zR0cRNaywy
— Goal (@goal) January 5, 2019
Having spent most of his childhood at La Masia, Cesc Fabregas always had an eye for the spectacular. Even in his teens, he used to find his team-mates effortlessly, picked out passes that no one else could, and always tried to be as press-resistant as possible. Arsene Wenger, who was in the market for a promising new talent at the time, decided to take a chance on the Spaniard and offered him a contract in the September of 2003.
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It took a bit of time for Fabregas to settle in, but his determination to break into the starting XI allowed him to make great strides in a short time. Patrick Vieira’s departure to Juventus allowed Fabregas to pick up the Frenchman’s legendary number 4 shirt, and make regular first-team appearances alongside Gilberto Silva. He emerged as Arsenal’s standout performer in the 2005/06 Champions League campaign as Arsenal finished lost out to Barcelona in the final.
The young Spaniard turned heads with his exceptional work on the ball, but sadly, his Arsenal team-mates failed to keep pace. Eventually, the lack of trophies outweighed his desire to finish his career at the club; and finally, in 2011, he flew back to Barcelona to reunite with the La Liga giants.
Three years and six major trophies later, he returned to London. This time, to play for a club which he once swore to loathe. Chelsea made the deal official on the 12th of June, 2014. Gunners, who were understandably heartbroken by the ‘betrayal,’ took to social media to slander their former hero. Fabregas, unfazed by the drama, donned Chelsea shiny blue shirt and posed for the camera.
Then-Chelsea boss, Jose Mourinho, was ecstatic to have the decorated playmaker at his disposal and used him in 37 of 38 Premier League fixtures. Chelsea lifted the Premier League trophy at the end of the campaign, and Fabregas tasted his first league triumph in his debut season at the Bridge. The next season turned out to be a disaster for the Blues, and Fabregas, too, wasn’t an exception. He was inconsistent all season long and looked almost disinterested to help Jose Mourinho turn the club’s fortunes around.
The Spaniard regained his sharpness during Antonio Conte’s debut season. He struggled with a few niggling injury concerns at the start but never lost his finesse. Chelsea shattered numerous records that season as they bulldozed their way to the title, and Fabregas, with his 5 goals and 12 assists in 29 appearances, emerged as one of the standout performers. Conte’s second season looked ill-fated from the start, and Fabregas, who took part in almost every major game that season, couldn’t do anything to alter his coach’s fate. His current coach, Maurizio Sarri, has a new footballing philosophy, where players like Fabregas won’t ever be able to fit in.
12 Premier League seasons, 350 appearances, 50 goals, 114 assists, two Premier League titles, two FA Cups, and a league cup; Cesc Fabregas’ trophy cabinet can put some of the greatest players to shame. The player never was the most charismatic of the lot, not the most outrageous. But he always, always, managed to be easy on the eye. We probably won’t remember Cesc Fabregas as one of the era-defining players, but he will always be remembered as the Matador who became the Monarch of London.