It all started with a photo.
In the summer of 2014 whilst everyone was waiting for the World Cup to kick-off in Brazil, Chelsea fans were abuzz with speculation over a potential signing that would rock the boat and change the course of football history.
In the world of Twitter, even five years ago – there was still a growing sense of trepidation over alleged “ITK’s” and transfer sources. One leaked photo popped up on my timeline. Cesc Fàbregas donning a pristine Adidas home shirt whilst smiling at the camera.
“Its not real” the 16-year-old me shouted dismissively as I scrolled up, trying to pass the tedium of a never-ending summer, waiting for my GSCE results to roll in. But no matter how many shouted “photoshopped”, it didn’t go away, doing the rounds – growing in stature.
A bit of doubt crept into my head – “could it be real?”. Then excitement grew, what a gem this could be. Not only was Fàbregas an exceptional footballer, but the more pressing issue was what the transfer would do to Arsenal fans. Only months after seeing Chelsea dish out a humiliating 6-0 at Stamford Bridge to turn their faint title hopes to dust, this would be on the level of Ashley Cole, a deal that seemed unfathomable. “Once a Gunner, always a Gunner” were words that would burn into the heart of every Gooner.
Not long before 12pm, an alert popped on my phone – my eyes flashed and I darted to my front room, snatching the remote control from my Dad’s lap, tapping the three digits faster than ever before to turn on Sky Sports News (Other news channels are available) to see in a big bold caps, CESC FABREGAS SIGNS FOR CHELSEA!
I screamed in celebration like a goal had just been scored, this was the high point of my summer so far. I was seven-years-old again on Christmas morning. Five years later, now 21, another notification has popped up and it seems all but certain Cesc Fàbregas is about to play his last game in a Chelsea shirt.
I remember reading an article from Jamie Carragher not long after Fàbregas’s arrival boldly claiming that Chelsea fans would never show Cesc the same affection because of his former connection to a close rival. However, I can say after assists, goals, trophies, more assists, more goals, and more trophies and one of the best songs we’ve had in many years, Carragher was wrong.
Not only has Fàbregas dazzled us with his flair, vision and passing ability. He’s won us over with the way he quickly took to the club, endearing himself to the fanbase. Jose Mourinho’s second spell in SW6 might be remembered for its calamitous ending, however, one of his masterstrokes was the signature of the midfield maestro.
Diego Costa might have solved Chelsea’s goal-scoring crisis, though it was Cesc who was able to unlock the door and create a connection with Chelsea’s new striker that became so infamous. It only took Fàbregas 21 minutes on his debut to prove his worth with one of the greatest passes you’re likely to see. A floated half-volley assist, perfectly weighted for André Schürrle stunned the crowd, players and those watching around the world. It was a touch of class, make that world class – sending Chelsea off on what would be a glorious campaign.
In ironic fashion, some of Fabregas’s best performances came against his old club. In his first meeting against Arsenal he picked up the ball deep in Chelsea’s half, Costa was already on his bike and outnumbered against red shirts.
Though as only Fàbregas can do, he lifted one of his trademark long passes right to the boot of his frontman who expertly did the rest. Arsene Wenger had passed on re-signing his former star due to his faith in Mesut Özil. What was remarkable was that in nearly all the encounters between the two clubs since Fàbregas’s return to the Premier League, the Spaniard would come out on top.
In 2014/15, alongside Nemanja Matić, Fàbregas would be the focal point of Chelsea’s creativity from midfield. Making 47 appearances in all competitions, scoring five (one of which was the famous winner at QPR) and assisting 24, six of which were for Diego Costa.
The first half of the following season will probably go down as Cesc’s lowest point in a Chelsea shirt. Like many in Blue, Fàbregas’s vision seemed to dissipate, his link with Costa broken and added to a list of other problems lead to his manager’s sacking. However, Fabregas’s form did improve in the second part of the season under Guus Hiddink. Once again beginning to assist Costa as both managed to recover something from a pretty dismal campaign.
Arguably Fàbregas’s toughest challenge as a Chelsea player would follow in 16/17, when Antonio Conte arrived. Despite getting minutes at the start of the campaign, creating a winning goal for Costa at Watford and scoring two in extra time away to Leicester in the League Cup, the World Cup winner wasn’t favored by his new boss.
The switch to a more-compact, rigid 3-4-3, meant the loss of a central midfielder, and that was Fàbregas.
Chelsea had begun their astonishing 13 game-winning run and the starting eleven seemed locked in place. However, a late injury to Matić on the morning of Chelsea’s visit to the Etihad Stadium meant Fàbregas would grab a starting place, and grab it he did.
With the Blues a goal down to Manchester City and riding their luck, a bit of genius was needed. A genius only one man could provide and with one strike from his right boot, Fàbregas floated a ball over City’s defence, finding none other than Diego Costa’s chest who shrugged off the nearest defender and rifled it into the net. Fàbregas had rewound the clock and set his side on their way to a thrilling comeback which turned the game on its head, a defining win in another title-winning season.
Although he wasn’t a permanent starter, his impact was felt, coming off the bench on many occasions to thread the perfect pass, to control the tempo or bring an experienced head when needed. Back against Arsenal in February and Fàbregas was generously handed the chance to score against his old club by a former teammate of his, Petr Cech. The former Arsenal captain made no mistake, delightfully dinking the ball over the stranded keeper, sealing Arsenal’s misery and another big three points for Chelsea.
Fàbregas collected his second Premier League winners medal, playing a key role for Conte in the latter months never moaning when he had to watch from the sidelines.
It is easy to look at last season and the first half of this campaign and see the negatives of Fàbregas’s game. However, even in his cameo appearances under Maurizio Sarri, Cesc’s class is still clear to see. Its been a privilege watching Fabregas play in the flesh for my club.
Watching him easily caress the ball from side to side in a casual fashion is a purists dream. His unmatched vision and precision on his best day to find the pass no one else on the pitch can or see is breathtaking. His winning mentality that has helped Chelsea on many big occasions to collect silverware puts him in a class above many midfielders.
WhenFàbregas departs, it won’t be soon until his presence will be missed within Chelsea’s squad and many fans will soon curse the departure of a true Premier League great which we were privileged to have at our club.
The incredible chant was one born out of rivalry and gloating, but the words really do ring true.Fàbregas was magic, he wore a magic hat! Thank you Cesc, it was a pleasure watching you play and I wish you the best for the remainder of your exceptional career.
Written by Daniel Childs