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European Championship

'I don't like complaining about the squad' - Fabregas backs youthful Spain to repeat Euro 2008 success

09:00 BST 11/06/2021
Cesc Fabregas split main image
The former Chelsea midfielder is backing Luis Enrique's side to shrug off their critics at Euro 2020 and emulate his own team's success

Spain is hoping that history will repeat itself at this summer's European Championship.

Manager Luis Enrique has controversially picked a squad that does not include any Real Madrid players, even omitting Sergio Ramos following a number of injury issues for the veteran defender.

Instead, the ex-Barcelona boss is pinning his hopes on a young and relatively untested group of players.

It is not the first time La Roja have selected such a squad, though. And last time things worked out rather well.

Cesc Fabregas was part of the Spain team which, by winning Euro 2008, began a four-year period of dominance for the country on the international scene as they won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.

Thirteen years ago, then-manager Luis Aragones left out a host of household names, and instead selected a squad that was more about potential than previous experience.

Fabregas was one of a host of players under the age of 25 who was chosen, with Andres Iniesta, Fernando Torres, David Silva, Santi Cazorla and Ramos himself also falling into that category.

It could not have gone better, as Fabregas and company plotted their way through the tournament before beating Germany in the final.

And the ex-Arsenal and Chelsea midfielder feels that history has a chance of repeating itself this summer, and as such supporters and the media should be showing a bit more belief in their national side.

"We should be here to support them," Fabregas tells  Goal  in an exclusive interview. "I don’t like it when we are complaining before the tournament starts about the squad.

"I had it in 2008 when I was 21, I think. There was Silva and Iniesta coming through, and everyone was doubting us a bit because Raul, [Michel] Salgado, [Santiago] Canizares and [David] Albelda weren't called up.

"All those players were cast aside to make space for us young players. We ended up winning the tournament and I don’t think I need to repeat what happened after.

"It is about giving opportunities and that's what Luis Enrique has done.

"It will not be easy for Spain, but no competition at the top, top level is simple. They just have to compete. It is a young team but they have proven that they can play well in qualification.

"Luis Enrique was a player and is a coach with a lot of personality, good ideas and he will not want to make things difficult for himself. He wants to do his best and we need to support him and go along with it.

"We will be behind the team and I hope we can do well."

Fabregas is one of a handful of players from that squad who is still playing, and he is doing so at a pretty high level after playing his part in Monaco's third-placed finish in Ligue 1.

Since arriving at the Stade Louis II in January 2019, Fabregas has seen the provincial club go from fighting relegation to securing Champions League qualification for next season following an impressive campaign under Niko Kovac.

Having recently turned 34, though, he is aware that age is beginning to catch up with him as he enters the final year of his Monaco contract and the twilight years of his career.

"Remember, I started so young and played so many games from the age of 16 at Arsenal," he says. "When I was 30, my body was more like a player at 36 and I know that.

"Mentally, I still wake up every morning hungry and I see the young players learning and improving, and I love being part of it. It gives me so much pleasure to train and compete with them. It makes me proud to see what we achieved together this year because I know it hasn’t been easy.

"I am also honest with myself, I know I cannot play for many reasons at the level required for 90 minutes every three days. I have this last year here and we made the Champions League. It was my dream to finish off playing in the Champions League, where I have been all my life, feel I belong and where I like to be.

"I am getting older but my mentality is the same. I know that I will not play as much, but my coach knows me and my game. He knows which situations and games that he can use to get the best out of me. I have proven many times this year that I can make a difference from the bench.

"As long as this keeps happening, I will feel alive and involved in the project of the club. After that, I don’t know. I will be 35 when I finish and I want to see how my body feels and reacts after a tough season next year.

"I am happy, but most of all I am proud, as when I first came here two years ago the team was second-bottom. It was a big risk for me to come and join a club in that state, but we made it."

Fabregas cites former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte as having played a key role in his longevity, saying:  "He made me realise many important things that I didn’t realise before, like with training. I always started everywhere I went, so you don’t notice that by playing so much, you don’t train a lot.

"After you get older, you may think when you get tired, you need to do less, but it is the opposite. You need to do more to be physically at the top level."

Until the season just gone, Conte and Fabregas' title-winning team of 2017 were the last side to secure one of the two most important trophies to the Blues hierarchy.

Thomas Tuchel, however, has changed that, with the German having overseen a superb turnaround at Stamford Bridge to guide Chelsea to Champions League glory in 2021 following their victory in the final over Manchester City.

"Tuchel has come in and taken the team to another level," Fabregas says of his old club.

"With Chelsea, I left six months before Gary Cahill, David Luiz and Eden Hazard left. These are important names, important players in the dressing room and Frank Lampard couldn’t sign anyone (to replace them) because they had the ban. So he deserves credit as well for it.

"He took great players from the academy like Mason Mount, Reece James, Tammy Abraham, Billy Gilmour and all of these players. We have to appreciate all he has done.

"The team has reacted well and I believed they would do well against Man City."