Cesc Fàbregas was not picked to go to the World Cup with Spain, so instead he signed with the BBC to and got a free trip to Russia anyway. By all accounts, he’s having a grand old time, wearing silly shirts (and again), getting his tan on, generating transfer rumors by dining with new Napoli head coach Carlo Ancelotti, telling Eden Hazard once again to be more decisive, and taking a few parting shots at Antonio Conte.
“Especially for Belgium now, [De Bruyne] plays a little bit deeper. I am not a big fan of this because he is so good and he can deliver so much in the final third that I think here you are taking a bit too much from his game.”
“He has to be too much disciplined, it happened to me over the last two years, you are a bit more restricted in this position. It is like you are telling your best creative player to not be creative.”
-Cesc Fàbregas; source: BBC via football.london
Clearly, Cesc does not expect to see Conte’s smiling face back at Cobham for a third year when Chelsea reconvene for preseason in less than a month. It’s not quite on the level of Willian literally covering up the head coach in the celebratory picture or Hazard basically saying it’s me or the toupée, but it’s easy to read between the lines.
In fairness to Fàbregas, he may not have meant it so harshly. When a trophy was on the line last month at Wembley, he ran his little creative heart out twice over. We all know that’s not his ideal position (including Conte, undoubtedly), but Cesc even used to wear his new-found tactical discipline as a badge of honor.
“I’m the type of guy that when I’m told I can’t play under this type of manager, not with his style, if you tell me this some fire comes inside me, and I want to prove everyone wrong. And that’s what I did, and hopefully I can keep it up for as long as I can.”
-Cesc Fàbregas; September 2017
But maybe now that the Conte Era is ending, there is no more need for diplomacy. Recent stories from Spain — courtesy of Diego Torres, he of the famous anti-Mourinho narratives — hinted at Chelsea’s Spanish players telling their international teammates at Real Madrid to pass on Conte, for example. Sergio Ramos would probably heed a fellow veteran’s advice. It just seems a bit odd for Cesc to get all “Cesl of The Three Rats” on us once again.
Two years ago, Fàbregas played the fewest minutes of any season since he broke into Arsenal’s starting lineup in 2003-04. While he missed a few months through injury, he was also told he’d never fit in under Conte. Instead of complaining, he buckled down and won the coach over. He was Chelsea’s 12th man, the super-sub, and a key player even if not a guaranteed starter as Chelsea won the league.
This season, the team around him may have gotten worse, but his personal situation improved even more. He saw his playing time soar back to its previous heights, almost doubling his minutes played from 1900 to 3600. But apparently he was not always “a big fan” of the role he had to play during those minutes. (Though again, was anyone overly happy that Conte was forced to deploy Fàbregas that often?)
A few weeks ago, Cesc declared that he is “happy” at Chelsea and that he wants to stay (sorry, Napoli fans) since he is “doing very well”. Perhaps he already knew that Conte was not long for the job anymore. Joke’s on Cesc though if he thinks Sarri-ball will involve less tactical discipline and/or running...