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Cesc Fàbregas
Fabregas newcastle emirates.jpg
Personal information
Full name Francesc Fàbregas i Soler
Date of birth 4 May 1987 (1987-05-04) (age 22)
Place of birth Vilassar de Mar, Spain
Height 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)[1]
Playing position Midfielder
Club information
Current club Arsenal
Number 4
Youth career
0000–1997 Mataró
1997–2003[2] Barcelona
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2003– Arsenal 185 (31)
National team
2002–2003 Spain U16 8 (1)
2003–2004 Spain U17 14 (7)
2005 Spain U20 5 (0)
2004–2005 Spain U21 11 (2)
2006– Spain 47 (5)
2004– Catalonia 1 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 15:36, 6 March 2010 (UTC).

† Appearances (Goals).

‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 15:36, 6 March 2010 (UTC)

Francesc "Cesc" Fàbregas i Soler (Catalan pronunciation: [ˈsɛsk ˈfaβɾəɣəs]; born 4 May 1987) is a Spanish footballer who plays as a central midfielder. He captains the English Premier League club Arsenal and plays for the Spanish national team.

Fàbregas started his career as a trainee with Barcelona but was signed by Arsenal in September 2003 at the age of 16. Following injuries to key midfielders in the 2004–05 season, he established himself as Arsenal's starting central midfielder and playmaker. He went on to break several of the club's records, earning a reputation as one of the best young players for his position of his generation.

In international football, the Spaniard's national career began when he represented the Under-17 side at the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Championship in Finland. As a result of his club performances, he was called up to the senior squad in 2006. He has played in the 2006 FIFA World Cup and Euro 2008, where he helped Spain to become eventual winners in the latter.

Contents

Club career

Early years

Fàbregas was born in Vilassar de Mar, Barcelona, Catalonia[1][3] to Francesc Fàbregas, Sr., who runs a property company, and Núria Soler, the owner of a pastry company. Fàbregas has supported Barcelona since childhood and went to his first match when he was nine months old with his grandfather.[4] It was at Barcelona where Fàbregas began his club football career. Initially, he was played as a volante (defensive midfielder), yet he was also a prolific scorer, sometimes scoring more than 30 goals in a season for the club's youth teams.[citation needed] However, he did not manage to play a first-team game at the Camp Nou.[5]

Fàbregas (left) in a game against Sheffield United in 2006

Sensing that he would have limited opportunities at Barcelona,[6] he joined Arsenal, signing for the London club in September 2003.[3] Initially, he found life difficult in England's capital but soon struck a friendship with Spanish-speaking team-mate Philippe Senderos, who helped him settle down.[7] As a 16-year-old, Fàbregas did not contemplate breaking into the first team immediately but looked up to senior players like Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva, while concentrating on training and learning the English language.[7] He nevertheless made his debut for Arsenal not long after, on 23 October 2003, in a League Cup tie at home to Rotherham United. In doing so he became Arsenal's youngest ever first-team player, aged 16 years and 177 days.[8] He then became the youngest goalscorer in Arsenal's history in a later round of the League Cup, scoring in a 5–1 victory against Wolverhampton Wanderers.[9] Although Arsenal went on to win the league unbeaten in the 2003–04 season,[10] Fàbregas was not awarded a winner's medal because he did not play a single league game.[11]

It was not until the start of the 2004–05 season that the Spaniard started making first-team appearances in matches outside the League Cup. His first match of the season was against Manchester United in the Community Shield. Following an injury to Vieira, Fàbregas stepped in and made four consecutive Premier League starts. He was praised for his performances in those games, even claiming a goal against Blackburn Rovers in a 3–0 victory, and becoming Arsenal's youngest ever goalscorer in a league game.[12][13] With further injuries to Edu and Gilberto Silva, he received more playing time in all competitions.[1][6] In the 2004–05 UEFA Champions League, he became the second-youngest goalscorer in the competition's history after scoring the third goal against Rosenborg in a 5–1 win.[14] He concluded his season by winning his first honours with Arsenal when he was in the starting eleven that defeated Manchester United on penalties in the 2005 FA Cup Final.[15]

Making the starting eleven

After the departure of Vieira to Juventus, Fàbregas was given the Frenchman's number 4 shirt and featured regularly in the Arsenal central midfield alongside Gilberto Silva. He made 49 appearances in all competitions during the 2005–06 season.[11] Despite his young age, his performances came under greater scrutiny due to his increased involvement in the first team. Further, as Fàbregas possessed a smaller frame and played with less aggression than Vieira, there were initially doubts over his ability to fill in the void left by the Frenchman.[16] Nevertheless, Fàbregas asserted his own style of play and impressed pundits in the Champions League against Real Madrid and Juventus.[17][18][19] In the latter, he scored Arsenal's first goal and set up Thierry Henry for the second,[17] at the same time proving that he could compete against tough, hard-tackling midfielders like Vieira.[19] He then played in the final against his former club Barcelona, but Arsenal were defeated 2–1,[20] completing a trophyless 2005–06 campaign for Arsenal.

Fàbregas celebrates a goal with his Arsenal team-mates

Fàbregas' increase in exposure drew transfer speculation during the summer; Real Madrid expressed a desire to sign the Spaniard despite his long-term contract with Arsenal,[21] but Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger stated that Arsenal would not listen to any offers.[22] In September 2006, with six years left on his deal, Arsenal offered a new five-year deal (with an option to extend by a further three years, making eight years) to the midfielder, which he signed on 19 October 2006.[23] While the contract was unusually long, Fàbregas cited Arsenal's playing style and Wenger as reasons for his long-term commitment to the club.[24][25]

Fàbregas was appointed captain of the team during the 2008–09 season

The 2006–07 season was a learning experience for the young Arsenal squad and Fàbregas. The club again failed to secure any major honours and were defeated by city rivals Chelsea in the League Cup final.[26] However, Fàbregas emerged as one of the key creative players for the team, playing in every single league game.[11][27] He kickstarted Arsenal's 2006–07 UEFA Champions League campaign when he scored a brace in a 3–0 win over Dinamo Zagreb in a qualifier match.[28] In the Premier League, he notched up 13 assists, which was the second-highest total in the league.[11][27] He ended the season with several individual honours, including the Golden Boy award, presented by the Italian paper TuttoSport, based on a poll of leading writers across Europe.[29] He was also named in the 2006 UEFA Team of the Year,[30] and named FA Premier League Player of the Month for January 2007.[31] Additionally, he was nominated for both PFA Players' Player of the Year and PFA Young Player of the Year, although both awards went to Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo.[32] In June 2007, he was named Arsenal's Player of the Season, taking in 60% of the votes.[33]

The 2007–08 season began with much uncertainty for Arsenal. First, David Dein, the club's vice-chairman, left amidst allegations of internal strife, followed by the departure of the club's all-time top goalscorer and captain, Thierry Henry, who signed for Barcelona. There was also speculation over Wenger's future with the club.[34] Fàbregas knew that he would become the most important player for Arsenal, but stated he was ready for the challenge.[35] He started the season well, chalking up goals and assists,[11] and website soccernet attributed the early success of Arsenal to the young Spaniard.[36] His start to the season also earned him the O2 Player of the Month award from Arsenal fans for August, September and October,[37] as well as the Premier League Player of the Month for September.[38] With Arsenal leading the league table until March, Fàbregas was equally instrumental in the club's 2007–08 Champions League campaign; in the return leg against Milan, the midfielder scored late in the game to send Arsenal into the quarter-finals.[39] Though Arsenal ended the season trophyless,[40] Fàbregas amassed several personal awards. On 11 April 2008, Fàbregas was nominated for the PFA Player of the Year and PFA Young Player of the Year awards for the second year running;[41] he was later crowned the winner of the latter, and named in the PFA Team of the Year. He was also named the 2007–08 Arsenal.com Player of the Season.[42]

Captaincy

Fàbregas as captain during the 2008–09 Champions League semi-final

On 24 November 2008, 14 league games into the 2008–09 season, Fàbregas was named as the successor to William Gallas as club captain.[43][44] However, just as Arsenal were getting back into the title race after a poor start to the season, the Spaniard was ruled out for four months after sustaining a knee injury against Liverpool.[45] The Gunners eventually finished the season without any silverware, coming in fourth in the league and being knocked out at the semi-finals of the 2008–09 Champions League campaign.[46][47] In tandem with Arsenal's policy to groom its young players, the team that Fàbregas led into the new season comprised mostly of the same young nucleus as before, with the likes of Nicklas Bendtner, Gaël Clichy, Abou Diaby, Denílson, Alexandre Song and Theo Walcott in tow.

In the opening league game of 2009–10 season, Fàbregas scored a brace and managed two assists in Arsenal's 6–1 away win against Everton.[48] Arsenal went on to secure qualification for the 2009–10 Champions League campaign by beating Celtic over two legs, but their early momentum to the season was disrupted by consecutive league game losses to Manchester United and Manchester City. The team bounced back strongly after this setback, and with Fàbregas being prolific in scoring and setting up his teammates, it went unbeaten in the next 13 games. Despite suffering four league losses even before mid-season approached, Arsenal managed to lead the league standings after 22 games.

International career

Youth team

Although he features regularly for the Spain national football team, Fàbregas' international career began at youth level. At the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Championship held in Finland, he finished as top scorer of the tournament despite playing in midfield, and was voted Player of the Tournament.[5] Spain finished runners-up in the tournament to Brazil.[49] Fàbregas was next involved in the 2004 UEFA U-17 European Championship, where Spain also finished runners-up.[50] He was named the Golden Player of the tournament.[50]

Senior team

After emerging as one of Arsenal's key players in only his second season at the club, it did not take long for Fàbregas to be called up to the senior squad. Noting his impressive performances in Arsenal's 2006 Champions League campaign, Spain coach Luis Aragonés named the teenager in the team for a friendly against Ivory Coast.[51] In that game, Fàbregas became the youngest player capped for Spain in 70 years, beating Sergio Ramos' record.[1] He received favourable reviews for his début, and was involved in the build-up to Spain's first goal in the 3–2 victory over the Ivorians.[1][52]

2006 World Cup

On 15 May 2006, Fàbregas was selected for the Spanish 2006 World Cup squad. During the tournament, he came on as a second-half substitute in Spain's first two group matches, contributing an assist to striker Fernando Torres in their 3–1 victory against Tunisia.[53] He then started alongside Spain's reserve players (including then-Arsenal teammate José Antonio Reyes) in Spain's third group match against Saudi Arabia.[54] He earned a starting role in Spain's first knockout-stage match against France, in place of Marcos Senna, but Spain lost 3–1.[55] Fàbregas also became the youngest player in Spanish football history to participate in a World Cup when he came on as a substitute for Luis García after 77 minutes in the 4–0 victory against Ukraine on 13 June 2006; he was then 19 years and 41 days old.[56] He was later nominated for the Gillette Young Player of the World Cup, but Germany's Lukas Podolski won the award.[57]

Euro 2008

Fàbregas celebrating Spain's Euro 2008 championship

In UEFA Euro 2008, Fàbregas was issued with squad number 10, rather than 18 which he had previously held.[58] Despite featuring mostly as a substitute, the midfielder made a considerable impact in Spain's campaign. He scored his first international goal in that competition in Spain's 4–1 win over Russia and also had an assist in that game.[59] Spain won all three of their group games and met Italy in the quarter-finals. In that match, Fàbregas scored the winning penalty in the penalty shoot-out after the teams remained deadlocked 0–0 after extra time.[60] In the semi-finals, Spain defeated Russia 3–0 with Fàbregas providing two assists.[59] The midfielder made the starting eleven in the final against Germany where Spain prevailed 1–0; this was Spain's first major title since 1964.[61] For his efforts, Fàbregas was named in the Team of the Tournament, a 23-man squad selected by the UEFA Technical Team.[59]

Confederations Cup 2009

After missing out for several months due to his injury, Fàbregas regained his place as a regular in Vicente Del Bosque's squad. In June, he was named in the team for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. He scored his second international goal in a 5–0 win against New Zealand in the competition's group stage.[62] In the semi-finals against the United States (which Fàbregas started), Spain suffered a shock 2–0 loss, and its 15-game winning streak came to an end.[63]

International goals

Scores and results list. Spain's goal tally first.
# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1. 10 June 2008 Tivoli Neu, Innsbruck, Austria  Russia 4–1 4–1 UEFA Euro 2008
2. 14 June 2009 Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg, South Africa  New Zealand 4–0 5–0 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup
3. 9 September 2009 Estadio Romano, Mérida, Spain  Estonia 1–0 3–0 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification
4. 10 October 2009 Hanrapetakan Stadium, Yerevan, Armenia  Armenia 1–0 2–1 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification
5. 18 November 2009 Ernst-Happel-Stadion, Vienna, Austria  Austria 1–1 5–1 Friendly

Style of play

Fàbregas and Anderson of Manchester United in a 2007–08 game

Originally brought to Arsenal as a youth to slowly develop via the League Cup, Fàbregas was unexpectedly deployed as Arsenal's starting central midfielder following injuries to fellow midfielders Patrick Vieira, Gilberto Silva and Edu during the 2004–05 season. Fàbregas functions mostly as a playmaker and his main asset is his passing range. As one of the most coveted and celebrated young talents in the game today, he has been described as being the kernel of Arsenal's first team, bringing vision, creativity, and an innate understanding of timing and space to Arsenal's intricate passing game, displaying maturity that belies his age.[1][3][5][6][33][35][64][65] In set pieces, he is one of the first-choice corner kick and free kick takers in the team.

Fàbregas has stated in interviews that while Vieira served as his role model and mentor,[66] he styles his game after his childhood hero and compatriot Pep Guardiola.[7] In that sense he is of a different mould from his Arsenal predecessors who play in the same position, preferring skill over strength.[7][16] Initially, this led to criticisms of his lightweight frame and less aggressive style of play,[16][19] with former teammate Ashley Cole criticising the Spaniard as "an unproven featherweight" in his autobiography.[67]

However, Fàbregas' statistics have improved over the seasons, and he has adopted a more aggressive style of play. His importance to the team as the main creative force is also reflected in his contributing 16 assists in all competitions in the 2006–07 season.[11] By his own admission, scoring was a weaker part of his game in his first few seasons at Arsenal; wasteful finishing also being symptomatic of the larger problem surrounding Arsenal in the 2005–06 and 2006–07 seasons.[64] This changed initially in the 2007–08 season when he scored 11 goals in his first 16 games, and Arsenal manager Wenger claimed that the Spaniard's previous inability to score was down to a mental state, and even compared the Spaniard to Michel Platini, a French midfielder renowned for scoring.[68][69] Given his young age, concerns have also been raised over the large number of games Fàbregas has played for club and country in the last few seasons, as burnout may become an issue if he is not adequately rested.[51][70] However, the midfielder has only sustained one major injury in his six-year career with Arsenal (during the 2008–09 season).

Club career statistics

(correct as of 6 March 2010)[11]
Club Season League Cup[71] Europe Total
Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists
Arsenal 2003–04 0 0 0 3 1 0 0 0 0 3 1 0
2004–05 33 2 4 8 0 0 5 1 0 46 3 4
2005–06 35 3 5 2 1 0 13 1 2 50 5 7
2006–07 38 2 13 6 0 2 10 2 1 54 4 16
2007–08 32 7 19 3 0 1 10 6 2 45 13 22
2008–09 22 3 10 1 0 0 10 0 5 33 3 15
2009–10 25 14 15 1 0 1 7 3 3 33 17 19
Total 185 31 66 24 2 4 55 13 13 264 46 83

Honours

Arsenal

International

Individual

Other projects

Fàbregas starred in his own one-time only television programme, called "The Cesc Fàbregas Show: Nike Live", that aired on 19 May 2008. The programme was sponsored by Nike and was shown on Sky Sports. The show featured Fàbregas in several sketches with Arsenal teammates like Philippe Senderos and Nicklas Bendtner, as well as coach Arsène Wenger, Fàbregas' parents and Little Britain star Matt Lucas.[72]

References

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  2. ^ Cuando todo era un sueño, elpaís.com, accessed 16 May 2006
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  4. ^ Football: The Interview Francesc Fabregas - Spanish marvel blossoms , findarticles.com, accessed 22 June 2008.
  5. ^ a b c Cesc Fabregas, uefa.com, accessed 23 May 2007.
  6. ^ a b c The Young Gunner, thefa.com, 19 May 2005, accessed 24 May 2007.
  7. ^ a b c d Marcotti, Gabriele and Balague, Guillem, "From Barcelona to Barnet: how a rising star learnt his trade", timesonline.co.uk, 28 February 2007, accessed 23 May 2007.
  8. ^ Cesc Fabregas becomes Arsenal's youngest ever player, arsenal.com, 27 January 2006, accessed 22 May 2007.
  9. ^ Arsenal youngsters thump Wolves, news.bbc.co.uk, 2 December 2003, accessed 22 May 2007.
  10. ^ Record Scorelines, arsenal.com, accessed 23 May 2007.
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  44. ^ Captain Cesc's appointment is no surprise, thesportreview.com, 26 November 2008, accessed 22 May 2009.
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  62. ^ Torres stars in Spanish stroll, fifa.com, accessed 15 June 2009.
  63. ^ Altidore's goal leads U.S. to stunning upset, soccernet.espn.go.com, 24 June 2009, accessed 26 June 2009.
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  65. ^ McIlvanney, Hugh, "Fàbregas a leader in waiting", timesonline.co.uk, 26 March 2006, accessed 22 May 2007.
  66. ^ Townsend, Nick, "Spanish marvel blossoms", The Independent on Sunday, 2 October 2005, accessed 17 September 2007.
  67. ^ Macintosh, Iain, "Completely Fab", The New Paper, 29 September 2007.
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  69. ^ Wenger: 'This team is blossoming and growing', arsenal.com, 15 September 2007, accessed 17 September 2007.
  70. ^ van Wijk, Jim, "Fabregas in need of rest after season of hard work", sport.independent.co.uk, 29 March 2007, accessed 24 May 2007.
  71. ^ Includes FA Cup, League Cup and FA Community Shield.
  72. ^ NIKELIVE, nikelivefabregas.com, accessed 19 April 2008.

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