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Cesc "Jesus" Fabregas "Proud to have given my all to Arsenal"

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Cesc Fabregas and Guillem Balague discuss life, football and family over lunch in a London restaurant as part of an interview for Champions Magazine....As with anyone else, there is more than one side to Cesc Fabregas. The regular, down-to-earth, family-guy Cesc who has time for everybody had to leave the lunch table after our chat because: “My uncles are coming to stay with me, and I want to make sure I’m there to welcome them when they arrive.”Relatives often visit his Hampstead home, and the young midfielder happily nurtures his family relationships and obligations.Then there’s the Cesc who stands out as a leader off the pitch – a characteristic that has strengthened over the past couple of years. This side of him came to the fore recently at a Spanish embassy event, when he took shy, junior teammate Fran Mérida under his wing. Mérida was unsure where to sit among the Spanish stars and football dignitaries, and Fabregas moved people around so Fran could sit next to him at the centre table.There is another altogether different character – one that even Cesc sometimes cannot recognise: a passionate, often niggling, personality that likes to be involved in both the beautiful and the ugly side of the game. This is the Cesc rivals know they can wind up, as Frank Lampard likes to do regularly.The Chelsea and Arsenal midfielders aren’t exactly best of friends on the pitch, and Lampard’s reference to his rival as a “cry baby” has angered Cesc. Their relationship has always been cordial when they have bumped into each other socially, but watch closely next time the pair meet on the football field. Their constant provocations and crunching tackles make for one of the most fascinating personal battles in the Premiership and, should they ever meet, the UEFA Champions League.Finally, not a million miles from the combative man, there is the competitive Cesc. This driven, impatient character is not afraid to insist that his club should match his ambition – a side of Cesc that becomes ever more obvious with every trophy-free season at the Emirates.When injury kept him out of the squad for several months last season, it was the most anguished and interminable spell of his career. But this trial brought into focus the player we see now: still competitive and difficult to deal with on the pitch, while a leader off it and a true friend to his friends. This is also a much happier Cesc – and a better, hungrier player.“I was really down last season,” he says. “I couldn’t enjoy anything, everything was negative. I lost that passion for the game and was happier closed off at home. It’s a very odd feeling.“To be ruled out for four months through injury was the worst period of my career – but I learned a great deal from that experience. I deal with things very differently now. After a game it used to take me hours to pick myself up – three hours or so to deal with a defeat. Nobody could talk to me. But now, just half an hour. Maybe the next day you walk around with a bit of a long face, but you’ve just got to look ahead and be positive.“I don’t internalise now. I’ve got other things to distract me – family, girlfriend, friends. I deal with criticism very differently now, whether it’s something I read in the press or hear from fans. Before my injury, I took it all far too personally. Now I just think, well, what are you going to do? I don’t allow it to get to me.”While he is still focused and 100% serious on the pitch, he laughs more these days. “I’m always making jokes, having fun, all day long. More and more I’m realising that life is to be enjoyed. You’re here today and gone tomorrow.”Speaking of solemn faces, what makes his manager, Arsène Wenger, break into a laugh?“The first time a player is called up and comes away with the squad, he has to get up in front of everyone at dinner and do a turn – sing a song, do a dance, make a speech… anything. Arsène loves that. It always makes him laugh.Cesc clearly admires Wenger and genuinely appreciates what the French manager has done for his career. There’s an obvious symbiosis between the two – but one day it must come to an end, and many have claimed that could happen this summer. Has it crossed the player’s mind how he will explain that decision to his fans and to the boss when the time comes?“I don’t know,” he pauses. “You can never say never, but I feel grateful, wanted, comfortable and important at Arsenal. Some people will never understand if I ever leave, but you have to feel comfortable with yourself.“I’ve given my all for Arsenal. I’ve played when I’ve felt ill, and through injury. I even played in the Champions League a few hours after my grandfather died. I’m proud to be a part of this club, and I’ll always be proud of what I’ve done. Whatever happens, whether I’m here 15 years more or even retire here, there’ll be fans who don’t like the way you’ve played or don’t like you as a captain. I mean, there are people out there who complain about the way Messi plays!“You can’t please all of the people all of the time. You can’t worry about what other people are thinking. You have to be satisfied with what you do – and all you can do is take the decision that’s right for you.”Cesc is not the archetypal star, as shown by his take on what it’s like being in the limelight. “There are all sorts of players. Some act like superstars – they have it all. You might say others are just normal, regular guys; they just enjoy doing what they do. Then there are those who collect Porsches and Ferraris. Others are down to earth, open with the public. The fact is, we’re all different, there’s not one kind of footballer. I’m aware that innocent things get misinterpreted. You can’t stay locked up at home all week.“Say you’re at a restaurant with friends. You prefer to keep to yourself, but people see you and start making a fuss. Sometimes you just want to be left alone, you want a bit of privacy, a bit of intimacy at dinner or at the cinema. To be able to enjoy yourself like any other person. Some people understand that perfectly, others don’t get it.”Players often rely on a fixed routine to give them a sense of normality – and they can be superstitious about changing their habits. Cesc’s schedule during the season is reassuringly simple: “The day before a game, I make sure I’m at home by ten or eleven at night. I try to get lots of rest ahead of a match. On the day of a game, I get up at eleven, go down with the rest of the team, have a coffee, an orange juice, then maybe a meeting with the manager.We’ll have lunch then go to our rooms to relax, listen to music, surf the internet, watch TV, chat on the phone or play with the PSP. I think about the game before I get into the changing room, but I’m not thinking about it all the time. It’s not the only thing on my mind.“I start to focus on the game as it gets closer, maybe listen to music on the way to the ground for a bit of motivation. Nothing special, whatever I’m into at that time. It could be something slow or something a bit more banging. Maybe if I really like it at that time, I’ll end up listening to it a hundred times – but then I’ll move on.“Then we get to the ground, maybe mess around in the dressing room to help everyone relax. We play a ball game for fun, and anyone who messes up three times gets a flick round the ear. Just for laughs. Of course we do some stretching, have a massage, go out onto the pitch to warm up and practise.”Cesc is protective of his colleagues but reveals how he prefers to lead by example behind closed doors at Arsenal: “We are not really the sort of dressing room with people shouting, because we all know what we have to do and everyone is already motivated.“We’ve talked about this with each other, and it’s not for us to have someone screaming and shouting in your face. We don’t like it. We discuss things and learn from what happens. Just before kick-off, I prefer to focus on the job. People wouldn’t like me shouting at them.”Out on the pitch, though, in the heat of battle, this more measured approach is not always enough. How does Cesc get his message across then?“There are days when you can see everyone’s finding it hard, when you can tell by the looks on everyone’s faces that things are going badly for them. They lose their spark. People’s heads are down and it’s flat, you can see that. So it’s everybody’s job to cheer each other up. I’ll try and perk one or two players up a bit if things feel wrong. You know: ‘Come on, let’s all pull together here…’ I can’t really say that I personalise it at all.“I don’t like to give specific instructions, but sometimes you see something clearly, like a teammate who isn’t making a pass because he wants to do it on his own. That really gets me cross. It’s one thing if a player doesn’t see the pass, but if you can see he’s seen the pass but doesn’t make it because he wants to be the big star, that makes me mad.”If recovery from injury was key to Cesc’s personal development, then Spain’s victory at the 2008 European Championship played a fundamental role in the learning curve: “Since Euro 2008, I’ve noticed I’m playing differently with the national team. I’m a lot more confident.“Things have always happened very quickly for me, and I’ve never had to spend a lot of time on the bench. It happened for the first time that summer.“I’ve started the last three games,” he says. “I’ve scored three goals, been involved in lots of passing, shown good control.“It’s all about confidence. It’s the same for every player: if you’re only playing ten minutes in every game, it’s difficult. I feel really good now – getting better with every game.”His desire to play every minute of every game even carries over to the virtual world, where an anonymous Fabregas admits he has been known to pause a game of football online and question his rival’s decision to substitute his digital alter ego.His passion for the game also extends to being a simple fan, so what is the most enjoyable game that Cesc the supporter has seen?“It would have to be the 2005 Champions League final between Liverpool and Milan – a spectacular game,” he says.“After that, the return leg of the semi-final last season between Barcelona and Chelsea. Obviously I enjoyed it because the winning goal was scored by a friend of mine, Andrés Iniesta, but Barcelona were practically out of that game and that goal was a historic moment.“I wasn’t at the game; I saw it on the telly. It’s hard to go and watch games when you’re a player, with all the people there. I hardly ever go, even though I love football. I have been to Camp Nou a few times to see friends like Puyi [Carles Puyol] or Gerard [Piqué]. But I don’t like to bother them after the game. I just go, watch the match, and then leave.”When the call from his uncles finally brings the conversation with Champions to a close, Cesc the family man leaves the restaurant to head home on time – but not before he shakes the hand of everyone he has come into contact with over lunch. As Fabregas the Arsenal man, the Spanish international, the leader, the football star makes his way out the door, a besotted Arsenal fan voices his surprise: “He’s just like a normal guy!” This interview with Guillem Balague is published in the February edition of Champions Magazinehttp://www.guillembalague.com/interview_desp.php?id=74&titulo=Cesc%20Fabregas:%20Proud%20to%20have%20given%20my%20all%20for%20Arsenal

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