Don Balón: Cesc Fábregas (Part 2)

DB:  Does it bother you that Wenger has the power to decide for you?

CF:  Hombre, he’s the boss, I have a contract, and he has every right to decide.  But, to be honest, no – it has be interpreted differently from the outside, but that’s not the way it is.  I have always been honest with him and he accepts what I have to say.

DB:  It seems like there is a need to find someone to ‘blame’ for your still being at Arsenal…

CF:  I don’t know why, but the perception is that if I don’t move forward now, it will never happen.  I’m 23 years old and if I leave this summer, I’ll be 24; if I leave the following year, I’ll be 25; if I leave the year after that, I’ll be 26; if I leave the year after that, I’ll be 27! The day I leave Arsenal I will do it having given it a lot of thought, not just “because.”  Besides, who is guaranteeing that I’ll get to play in the new team?  Or maybe you don’t evolve as a player.  I am very lucky that, despite not having won a lot, I am getting stronger.  I have spoken to Puyol and he told me that he didn’t win anything until he was 26.  Puyol has won everything in football!  Patience and hard work is the most important thing in life.

DB:  How is it that a coach like Wenger, who hasn’t won anything in years, is not questioned/doubted?

CF:  Hombre, it’s easier for me to understand now that I’ve spent so many years here.  But it’s clear that if Emery, Guardiola or Mourinho spent three years without winning anything that they would not stay on as coaches.  It’s different here, el míster is a very intelligent person and the club values other things: that the team is always in Champions, that it fights until the end, that it has young players, and that it is economically stable.  I suppose that is what is important for the presidents of the club.  Although, there is a point where you have to take a step… you either win or you don’t.

DB:  That’s what I was getting to.  Arsenal is known as never winning anything… but playing a great game…

CF:  It’s true.  When I started we won the Cup and afterwards we got to the Champions League finals, which we didn’t win but you say:  “ostia,” Barcelona has beat you with one less player and in the last minute.  You don’t see it as a victory, but you think:  it’s the first time the club has reached the Champions League.  But after 2007, I started saying the same thing:  “we don’t win, but we play well.”  And you start realizing that that doesn’t work.  You have a good time during the championship phase, like we did this year for example, when we were in four different competitions.  And think to yourself:  I have it all!  But after missing that final point, you need to make a decision:  you either go to win or to train good players.

DB: There’s still a possibility of winning the Premier League, isn’t there?

CF:  Yes, there’s still a chance.  It’s complicated but we’ll fight until the end.  To be honest, it’s the best opportunity we’ve had since I came to Arsenal.

DB:  What does Arsenal need in order to beat United and Chelsea?

CF:  It’s difficult.  For me, it’s a lack of a winning mentality and maturity at pivotal moments.  We have talent to spare, but we need more confidence.  The problem is that this team needs to win something.  That’s why it was so important to win the Carling Cup.  We needed to win that cup in order to believe in ourselves as a team.  Van Persie has won the FA Cup like I have, but that’s it.  Nobody in the team has won anything.  We’re missing that feeling that “ok, I know what it is to win and I know what we are missing in order to win.”

DB:  Arsenal started off doing very well…

CF:  Of course.  That’s what I’m saying.  I have won the Eurocup and the World Cup, playing so-so.  But you need a whole team.  And that’s what I think made the Arsenal that was known as “The Invincibles.”  They knew how to win games, when to attack, they had that special intelligence to read games.  We are just so young.

DB:  Of the cracks that you have seen leave, which would help the team the most?

CF:  I would say a lot of them, but I think it would be Dennis Bergkamp, who is one of the best three players who I have ever played with.  But we are also missing a forward who can score 30 goals per season.  Van Persie plays as a center forward, but he is more of a midfielder and with his injuries has missed a lot of games.  If he had been physically well from the beginning of the season, things would have been different.

DB:  Last year, following the departure of Adebayor, you exploded as a scorer.  What happened?

CF:  Well, I switched positions.  Now I’m more of the playmaker. I was also doing well physically and a lot of the goals happened when Van Persie was with me.  I understand him very well, in the way he interprets the game.

DB:  Do you feel comfortable in that position?

CF:  I still think that I should play further back  This allows you get a better view of the game, you can provide better support, and you can move quicker… You take part in the game more.  If the team needs me here, then I am encantado.

DB:  Wilshire has been talked about a lot recently…

CF:  He’s a great player.  I love it, he’s on his way to being a crack.  He’s very strong for his age.  I wish I had his leg strength.  As he matures and becomes a better player, he will become a jugadorazo.

DB:  Guardiola created quite a stir when he said that Barcelona had many players like Wilshire.  Next year, Thiago Alcántara will move up to the Barcelona’s first team.  What do you know about him?

CF:  From what I’ve heard, he’s a great player.  I’ve only seen him play a few minutes in the first team.  But little by little you realize his quality as a player, he’s one of those players that you’re not sure what position he plays.  He can be a midfielder, because he has vision of the game but he can also be create plays.  I’m curious to see how he defines/develops in the coming years.  I think he’ll be great for Barcelona and for the national team.

DB:  Your progression in the Spanish national team has not been the same as in Arsenal…

CF:  In life, it’s all about the opportunities you are given.  In the nationa team, the few I’ve had I’ve taken advantage of.  I see them in a positive light, because I’m lucky to have two great players like Xavi and Iniesta by my side.  They have quality of game, they have won a lot, they are older, and I can learn from them.  Every time I’ve played with them, whether in the game against Italy or the one against Russia, which is the best game we’ve played in the last five years, I feel comfortable.  I think that we can play together.  But every coach wants the best for their team and to be honest, the Eurocup and the World Cup has been won without counting a lot on Cesc.

DB:  The national team played better football in the Eurocup or in the World Cup?

CF:  I can’t say.  I have my opinion, but I can’t say.

DB:  What about Del Bosque?

CF:  My relationship with him is good.  I’m always going to do as he says.  But I do have a thorn on my side.  Last year, I had great moments that could have been helpful to the national team.  I wish I could play four or five consecutive games.  I would like to know how what I can contribute to this team during three or four consecutive games.  It’s difficult.  I would be the first one to say that if I play four games badly, that I shouldn’t be called up.  But I’ve missed that with the national team.  I’m going to fight to get that.

DB:  In the end, because there are so many great players, it’s difficult to have them all play…

CF:  That’s true.  We’ve said that before.  There is a generation of footballers that are so great that you have to be aware of the competition.  I’ve never and will never complain about that.

DB:  Fernando Torres at Chelsea.  Did you see that coming?

CF:  No!  It happened so quickly!  I didn’t see Torres outside of the English league, but I also didn’t think he would leave mid-season.  I do think it has been a good decision on his part.

DB:  If Chelsea came offering the millions that they offered Torres for Cesc, what would you do?

CF:  Me?  They would never do that!

DB:  You know what I mean:  imagine that they were trying to convince you to come with a very ambitious project…

CF:  That would never happen.  If I ever decide to leave Arsenal, I would never leave for another English team.

DB:  You heard about the controversy surrounding Jon Toral, another player of Barcelona’s youth team that recently signed with Arsenal.  Were you surprised by the criticism your coach received, given the similarities with your experience?

CF:  I think everyone does this.  I was the first, yes, but there have been other cases that didn’t create this much attention.  Manchester United signed Piqué.  The only thing that’s clear to me is that Barcelona has great players that will make it, 60% of them, I would say.  But not all of them will play at Barcelona and some of those players are aware of this.

DB:  Were you?

CF:  Well, those who get to Barcelona’s first team are privileged:  the Xavis or the Puyols.  And then there are the super privileged, the Busquets or the Pedros, that scored the lottery.  They have worked hard and one day, the coach tells them:  “tomorrow, you’ll play.”  This doesn’t happen very often.  I have a lot of friends that are still in Barcelona’s B-team, like Victor Vásquez.  A lot of them were better than me.  But you have to choose.  Each one has to find their way.

DB:  Do you still remember Senderos?

CF:  Of course.  I lived with him my first two years in London.  He was a great friend.  During the Switzerland-Spain World Cup game, we lost and he got hurt, so I went to the locker room and tried to cheer him up.  The whole locker room was celebrating having beaten us and he was crying.  It broke me to see him this way because he has been unlucky in pivotal moments in his career.

DB:  What about Hleb?  He’s also someone you grew close to.

CF:  He’s a big personality who, once you get to know him, you see that he has a big heart.  He’s a big joker.  Actually, he became close to Piqué in Barcelona.  And I’ll tell you one more thing:  he’s one of the footballers whom I have understood the best on the pitch.

DB:  Twitter has revolutionized the world of football.  What pushes footballers to join Twitter?

CF:  Basically, I just use it for fun.  But I think that fans really value having that connection to you, especially the English fans.  I tend to send pictures and to them, it’s like being in the locker room.  Then there are the “sick” ones like Wilshere, who love Twitter more than their girlfriend.

His Return to Camp Nou

“I was selfish and my team ended up paying for it.”

Cesc Fábregas had high hopes in qualifying for the knockout round of the Champions League against Barcelona.  But, in his first time back at Camp Nou, everything went wrong.  With humility, he tells us how he lived that fateful day.

DB:  You have said that the day you played for Arsenal at Camp Nou was the worst of your life.  Were you referring solely to the elimination?

CF:  Hombre, I knew that it was one of the most important games I could play.  Because I was returning to Camp Nou as part of the Arsenal team as captain, playing with a lot of my friends, and with my family in the stands.  It was a game I had been preparing for with a lot of hope and it ended up being a disaster.  Whatever anyone else says, I was the one to blame for the result.  If Arsenal is out of the Champions League, it is 70% my fault.

DB:  Aren’t you being a bit hard on yourself?

CF:  No, it’s the truth.  I felt pain during the 14th minute and I felt the weight of the world on me.  I had missed the Carling Cup final, I had rested prior to that game, I didn’t feel any pain during any of the trainings prior to that day… But when I tried to pass the ball to Adriano, I felt pain in my hamstring.  My head told me “You can’t leave now.”  How was I going to stay?  If I left that second, which is what I should’ve done, and I will regret my decision to stay on the pitch for the rest of my life, in my head, people would have thought that I didn’t want to play.

DB:  But you chose to stay…

CF:  I tried.  But I couldn’t turn, I couldn’t sprint, I could only jog.  The ball came and I’m not one of those players who will just shoot the ball to the crowd!  I didn’t know what to do, it came behind me and if I wasn’t in pain, I would have turned, but the pain blocked my thoughts and I ended up hitting it and Iniesta came and passed it to Messi who then scored the first goal.

DB:  Did the whistles at Camp Nou affect you?

CF:  No, not at all.  It was all mental, I had psyched myself out.  Because I wanted to keep playing, I didn’t think of the team.  I was selfish and my team ended up paying for it and I ended up paying for it, because I couldn’t play my best.  It also hurt my family – they noticed it right away.  Mi grandfather told me that he had spent the entire game with his legs shaking, even though he never gets nervous.  They noticed right away that I wasn’t ok.  I know that it sounds like an excuse, but it was a day I’d like to forget.  And I will learn from it.

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