French Connection: Fabregas to spearhead Monaco's relegation fight

Cesc Fabregas Monaco 2018-19
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The former Arsenal midfielder is set to team up with his old friend Thierry Henry at Stade Louis II - and he feels he owes the Frenchman one

Thierry Henry’s main priority for Monaco during the transfer window was to reinforce his side with experience.

He has already successfully captured four players for the relegation-battling principality side, centre-back Naldo from Schalke, Lille full-back Fode Ballo-Toure, former Marseille midfielder William Vainqueur and, most eye catching of all, Cesc Fabregas.

The Spanish midfielder was surplus to requirements at Chelsea but is set to be handed a leading role at Stade Louis II, where he will be expected to become a leader for the team as they attempt to push their way out of the relegation zone.

Like his fellow recruits, Fabregas was ineligible to play the rearranged derby against Nice on Wednesday (the match had been postponed from December, before they were registered) yet he gave a taste of what he is capable of when Monaco travelled to Marseille on Sunday.

Cesc Fabregas

Indeed, the 31-year-old World Cup winner had a central role to play as Henry’s men turned in a much-improved display and were a whisker away from taking three very impressive points with them from the Velodrome.

“Cesc grew with the game,” Henry said. “Minute after minute, he started to make his mark on the match and take that break.

“Rony Lopes does it too, this break between the line, allowing you to see where you have to play, see what the team gives you and where to put the ball.”

Fabregas' ability to control the tempo of the game was evident and, although he is not yet entirely on the same wavelength as his new team-mates, Lopes described playing with him as “a delight”.

It is surely only a matter of time before he strikes up the rapport that has made him such a star since breaking in the Arsenal team aged 16.

“Physicality goes away from all of us, unfortunately, when you get older, you lose speed, you lose some sharpness, but technique I think is something that always stays with you when you have something, so hopefully it can stay with me for a very long time yet,” he said after taking part in his final Chelsea game – a 2-0 FA Cup victory over Nottingham Forest.

David Luiz, a former team-mate at Stamford Bridge and a Ligue 1 veteran after two seasons with Paris Saint-Germain, has backed the Spaniard to star under Henry.

“He has experience, he knows football,” the Brazilian centre-back explained. “I think he has had the opportunity to learn in many different changing rooms when he was so young, so he always brings confidence and energy for the team. 

“Then on the pitch he has shown that it doesn’t matter the game, he’s always going to bring his qualities.”

In a Monaco side that has sometimes looked lost this season, he is expected to provide a shining light. 

Henry, of course, knows very well what Cesc is capable of, having played alongside the Catalan for four years as he was just making his way into the Arsenal side and then remaining firm friends to such an extent that France’s record scorer was a guest at Fabregas’ wedding in the summer.

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“I have known Henry for a very long time, since I was 16 years old,” Fabregas said. “He helped me a lot in my career. 

“He was one of the best players I could play with as a midfielder; it was a privilege to play with an attacker of this class. 

“He is at the beginning of his coaching career. I have come to help him but especially the club.”

Life in this instance has gone full circle. 

If Henry helped the teenage Cesc in the early years of his career, it is now time to be repaid by the Spaniard, who has a significant weight of responsibility on him as he enters the twilight of his playing days.

The friends have never failed each other, and they are not about to start now.