The Chelsea midfielder has been singing the praises of a former manager who stands between him and success in the FA Cup final on Saturday.
Cesc Fabregas wants to get one over on Jose Mourinho when Chelsea face Manchester United in the FA Cup final but admits that the Portuguese are one of the managers he has connected with the most during a distinguished career.
The Spain legend has won 11 major honours for club and country, but has just one FA Cup on an impressive CV from his time at Arsenal and victory on Saturday will mean that he has secured every major domestic trophy during a spell at Chelsea.
Mourinho was the manager to bring Fabregas back to England in 2014 when he completed a £27 million (£36m) switch from boyhood club Barcelona.
Fabregas admits that he ‘loves’ the new Manchester United boss, despite reports of a once strained relationship at Stamford Bridge, but says that will not help him to guess the Red Devils’ tactics when the pair are reunited at Wembley Stadium.
“No, especially in the last two years, we played many games against them and he has changed the system many times,” Fabregas said at Cobham Training Ground. “I am sure he will change something again on Saturday.
“I love him. I always say that. I owe him a lot because he brought me here, I will always remember that.
My first year here, Arsene [Wenger] had always treated me like a son, but the closest anyone has been to him was Jose.
The way he treated me, the way he made me feel, how he let me be a leader of the team from day one.
“This was fantastic and in all the four years since I joined Chelsea, that will always stay with me. It [this experience] is thanks to him.
Our history of what happened between us – I played for Arsenal and him at Chelsea, Barcelona and him with Real Madrid.
“We were confronting each other, but then we humbled ourselves and started a good relationship. This is very nice but hopefully it will not be his day and Chelsea can win.
“I was happy at Barcelona but there were players who were there for many years before me. For me, it was different because I went and came back and they paid money for me.
It is more difficult, I never had the same love that the other players had. That’s also because they were such fantastic players, don’t get me wrong! When he brought me here, I had a lot of fire inside of me.
It was a fantastic year [with him], to be honest.”
The match on Saturday represents the last chance for both Chelsea and United to win a major honour this season, with the Blues having also missed out on qualifying for the Champions League through their Premier League standing.
Fabregas thinks that failure, which saw the Blues finish fifth, could be used as added motivation in the FA Cup final, with Antonio Conte’s side eager to make amends for a forgettable 3-0 defeat to Newcastle in their last league fixture.
“Well, it is not easy after how we ended the season on Sunday on a very negative day, but listen, there’s no other way than to pick ourselves up,” Fabregas added.
“Today is maybe a quiet day, but we have to pick ourselves up, stand up and focus on Saturday to try to win this one for the fans.
“When you play the cup final, you can win a treble, but you still want to win in everything. It is about the passion you have inside, if you don’t have it, you don’t have it.
But I think if you really want to win and they are telling you that you are playing a cup final on the last day of the season against Manchester United, you don’t need someone to tell you to play well.
“It is inside each one of us, this fire and hunger to go and beat them. We want to get the cup for the fans and ourselves. I never believe in these things [about one team being the favourite]. The cup final is one game and anything can happen, really.
“Last year everyone was saying Chelsea will win it and we played one of our worst games of last season. So anything can happen. We always know it will be a tough game. Mourinho prepares for finals very, very well and I am sure Antonio will do the same.”
Conte has repeatedly criticised Chelsea’s finishing ability this season, as his side fell short of their goals in the league.
Fabregas has also added his opinion on the subject in weeks gone by and believes that Chelsea’s defeat against Manchester United at Old Trafford is a good example of what they need to do better.
“We played well in the first half and in one moment they scored what was a good goal, to be honest,” he concluded.
“In the second half, it was not good and we tried to change things around but maybe it was a little bit too late. I think it is those moments that we sometimes lacked this season.
“Sometimes we need to finish the game off, not to give opportunities to other games to come back. This is an example of what this year, we could have done better.”