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It was back in September when Cesc Fabregas went public with his dissatisfaction over a bit-part role he was assuming under Tito Vilanova.
It was five games into the season and the midfielder had completed none, he was given just seven minutes against Real Madrid over the two legs of the Spanish Super Cup and Fabregas, having played 41 times for Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona the season before, was wondering if there was a spot for him in the plans of the new manager.
Five months later and Fabregas is once again happy in his Catalan surroundings. With Barcelona sitting twelve points clear at the summit of La Liga and still chasing both the Copa Del Rey and Champions League titles, Fabregas has this week expressed his desire to remain at the Nou Camp until his career ends, “I want to stay, if I can, and if I deserve to, forever”.
Vilanova is now using the ex-Arsenal midfielder more regularly and has handed him 18 starts out of the 23 Barcelona have played in the league. He is being used sparingly in the cups, making just five appearances in the Champions League and the Copa Del Rey, though he has produced the standard of performance that is likely to see him play a significant role as those competitions reach their climax. The midfielder has 8 goals and 9 assists in total, and in true Barca style, a mammoth pass percentage figure of 89.3 from his 26 games played.
If the Spaniard got the main body of his footballing education from his seven year’s worth of guidance from Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, the influence of his early years at Barcelona’s famed academy of La Masia is clear as he slots effortlessly alongside Sergio Busquets and Xavi Hernandez like he has never been away.
Fabregas does not look out of place alongside the genius of Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Xavi beside him as the blood of the club that went to such dramatic lengths to buy him back from Arsenal, £30 million and month upon pain-staking month of drawn-out negotiations to be exact, pumps emphatically through his veins.
Comfortable in possession with the dynamic ability to change pace and penetrate the box with a direct run, Fabregas offers something different to Barca’s range of pass-masters as an all-rounded midfielder who started deep with Arsenal and evolved into a driving creative force.
As is habitual with La Masia graduates, he possesses the audacious through ball that supplies the obscenely talented striker at the tip of the mesmeric build-up in Messi, a position Fabregas can also replicate with intelligent movement and deceiving strength.
At the age of 25, Fabregas has already won a double European Championship and a World Cup as he played a part in arguably the most gifted generation of players to ever represent a national side.
He was named in UEFA’s team of the tournament for Euro 2008 and even though he failed to start a single game for Spain in the World Cup of 2010, he provided the assist for Andres Iniesta to seal the historic triumph against the Netherlands in the Johannesburg final.
Then came Euro 2012 of last summer in which he was brilliant for Vincent Del Bosque’s champions, being used in a wide range of roles, including that of a “false-nine” striker, as he once again popped up in the team of the tournament.
It is that versatility that has been so useful for both Del Bosque with Spain, and now Vilanova with Barcelona. He is able to play in any position across Barcelona’s fluent midfield and attack, allowing him to adapt to the quick, coherent movement that has become synonymous with his club.
With Fabregas the ace in the pack, Vilanova is able to shuffle his attacking pieces around when the variety of a plan B is needed, without sacrificing any of the outrageous talent available to him. That David Villa has lost his place to fit Fabregas on the left side of midfield, behind the now advanced Iniesta, is testament enough to the impact the 25 year old has had in Catalonia.
Despite the international honours, Fabregas has still only managed to win a single domestic cup in both England and Spain, with a league title and the Champions League still eluding him. La Liga is likely to be won this year, but Fabregas has made clear where his intentions lie, “to win the Champions League with Barca would be the best dream I could have as a footballer” he said.
It is that drive and ambition that not only caused him to openly-pine for a return to Barcelona life whilst captain of Arsenal, but will, in all-likelihood, see him achieve his goal of carrying on as a Barcelona player until he calls it a day someway off in the future.
It has been reported that a clause in Fabregas’s contract will allow him to return to Arsenal if he is ever to be put up for sale at the Nou Camp, but Fabregas seems determined to prevent that from happening.
It seems, with the Spaniard playing his own vital role in this all-conquering Barcelona team, that Tito Vilanova is determined to help him do it.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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