EXCLUSIVE: Fabregas rejects Barcelona switch - 'I'm more relaxed in London'

Cesc rues Utd tactics, hails Arshavin & reveals internet habits...
By Mohammed Bhana

Already one of the best players in the Premier League, conducting the Arsenal midfield like a virtuoso and finding the runs of Robin van Persie & Co with his unique style of passing, it's sometimes easy to forget that Cesc Fabregas is just 22 years old.

The Spaniard has played over 100 games for Arsenal, including a Champions League final. In 2006, he became Spain’s youngest international in 80 years and has been in great form for his national team.

So the prospect of him getting even better is frightening.

Fabregas, however, is eager to improve and cannot wait to lock horns once again with the likes of Manchester United. He believes the Gunners should have at least gained a draw in the clash against the Red Devils on Sunday and is looking for retribution.

“The Premier League is a very tough league to play in and you have to be at your best week in, week out because there are not many easy opponents,” he says, in his first ever Goal.com UK exclusive interview.

“The referee has admitted he made a mistake [in the Man United game] but we can’t do anything about it now. We can only look forward to the next game.


And when they [United] play us at home, it will be very different.

"Yes, it hurts to lose in that way, but we were denied many opportunities and it was a very physical game - maybe too physical - but we showed that we will not be bullied by anybody. And when they [United] play us at home, it will be very different.

“Clubs try not to let us play our style of football and some use questionable tactics, but we will not be intimidated by anyone.”

But if 'anti-football' was the problem at Old Trafford, Andriy Arshavin proved to be something of a solution, once again producing big-game magic for the Gunners.

Fabregas holds the Russian in the highest esteem: “Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are two of my favourite players, and John Terry and Ashley Cole are superb defenders. Theo Walcott is doing very well, too, and is already a fantastic player.

“Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira and Claude Makelele have all also been tough opponents. There are not many easy opponents in the Premiership.

"Gerrard, Lampard, Keane, Vieira ... ARSHAVIN"

"But Arshavin is a fantastic player who just loves the game. He is a pleasure to play with and has given us a new dimension and made us more compact.

“He is in the same league as some of the players I have mentioned and he can only improve."

While matters may be all well and good up front, the largest criticism still facing Arsene Wenger's side is the lack of physicality - perhaps a lack of 'anti-football' - in midfield.

Cesc, who thrived alongside one such player in Mathieu Flamini, defers all matters of tactics to the boss. “If the manager is looking to bring in players who are capable of making the kind of impact Arshavin has then he will be welcomed by the team," he says. "We have made a good start but signing players and formation is the manager's decision.”

HE'S STAYING - and here's why

Arsenal fans in their droves may not share Cesc's outward patience in the transfer market, but they may at least remain confident that, despite the neverending speculation, their skipper is staying put.

“I know all about the speculation about Barcelona but you have to understand I am a professional and I am an Arsenal player," he repeats, for what seems like the thousandth time - but then it got interesting. "We have made a good start and we can go on to do good things this season. As a youngster I admired [Pep] Guardiola and Michael Laudrup at Barca. I learnt many things there, but it’s important to be yourself.

“You can never know what will happen in football, and it’s always an honour to be linked with a prestigious club like Barcelona, who I know all about. But let’s see how Arsenal does this season. I am sure we will win something soon."

Eternal respect | Cesc & AW
Delving ever so slightly into his personal life, the midfielder further explains his decision, revealing that he feels under too much pressure whenever he goes back home.

"My girlfriend is a psychologist and I try not to tell her too much," he laughs. "People try to ask her about me and Barcelona but she also knows that when I go back to Barcelona, I am always getting told what to do, and here in London I can relax.

“I am comfortable here and Arsene Wenger has helped me a lot and for that I will always respect him.

“I would like to win a major trophy again, but we will see.”

While he's happy in England, clearly a part of Cesc still misses home, as he fondly recalls his friendships with many members of the national side, looking forward to the World Cup, and even revealing that he and new Real Madrid signing Xabi Alonso keep in contact daily on the internet.

“It is a great honour to play for Spain. I played in the World Cup aged only 19. Who wouldn’t be excited?" he asks.

“I get on with Andres Iniesta because I used to be at Barcelona. Sergio Ramos and I came through the Spanish ranks together and I also speak to Xabi Alonso on the internet every day. He is doing well at Real [Madrid].

“We all know that we still can get better and everyone is always very competitive because we cannot afford to be complacent - but we all get on and we are always laughing. You need that in a team, but we are a young squad and there’s so much talent we can win many trophies."

His Spanish side - whether or not he makes the starting XI - shape up as one of the clear favourites for the World Cup, and with Arsenal springing a few early season surprises, he and no doubt all his fans remain confident that not even the Old Trafford setback will stop the Gunners from making a fist of it in the season's battles for major silverware.

Mohammed Bhana is chief correspondent of Goal.com UK.