Cesc Fàbregas’ four-year career at Chelsea might be short compared to the legacy he left at our rivals Arsenal, or the history he made first as a youth prodigy and then the prodigal son coming back home with Barcelona, but it is already one for the books.
Arriving from Barcelona for a €33 million fee, Cesc’s transfer was met with plenty of distrust, not just because of his past associations and actions (his frequent clashes with Lampard; his dive against us in the 2012 semifinal second leg; etc) but because of his (not unfounded) reputation for being a rather weak player defensively. Given that Jose Mourinho insisted on playing a two-man midfield in his 4-2-3-1 system, it seemed very risky to leave all the defending to just one player (as good as Matic was back in 2014).
But Fabregas didn’t take long to show that there is plenty of reward to be had amid all the risk, perhaps enough to outweigh it, even. Just a few minutes into his very first game in a Chelsea shirt, he provided one of the assists of the season that eventually culminated in a Premier League title. Cesc’s assists and passing in general played a key part in that, especially when Chelsea faced massed ranks of defenders in games against the non-top-six teams.
The second season didn’t quite live up to the first. his form plummeted, and so did the rest of the team’s. Another bitter breakup with José Mourinho took place, and Fabregas was named as one of the “rats” responsible for this fallout. Well, “Cesl” was, as per that infamous homemade sign.
With a new coach in place, and one who demands even more two-way work from his midfield, Cesc had his work cut out for him. His willingness to put his head down and work hard in training, to prove himself to Conte as a viable option (especially as a game-changing second-half substitute) was one of the great stories of last year’s title win, Cesc’s second in three years with Chelsea after none with Arsenal in almost a decade.
Now in his fourth season, and over 30, Fabregas is playing twice as often as he was last year. That’s perhaps not ideal, but with Matic leaving for Manchester United last summer, Bakayoko not yet living up to his promise, and Drinkwater seemingly injured all the time, Fabregas has been pressed into constant service, playing heavy minutes in both the Premier League and the Champions League. In addition to making Chelsea’s midfield less solid defensively (though better in possession), Cesc starting also reduces Conte’s options on the bench and his ability to change games with key substitutions like last season.
What does the future hold for Fabregas? Entering the final year of his contract and over 30, few teams, if any, will pay him as well as Chelsea do (he’s one of the two highest paid players on the team alongside Eden Hazard). He also loves London and is settled here with his big family, and he undoubtedly enjoys competing for trophies with Chelsea. So even if Chelsea only offer one-year extensions to players in their 30s, Cesc is more than happy to stay.
“I am happy and I would like to stay here for the next season. I am doing very well at Chelsea.”
-Cesc Fàbregas; source: Radio COPE via Marca
Cesc staying on for the final year of the five-year contract he signed in 2014 is not surprising. What will be interesting to see if Chelsea do start to main him on the one-year contract rotation as we had done for many others, including John Terry.
Until then, let us enjoy the maestro and his orchestra.