Cesc Fabregas appears set to leave Chelsea this month after bidding an emotional farewell to Blues fans in the FA Cup third-round win over Nottingham Forest at Stamford Bridge.
The Spaniard, who has been linked with a move to Ligue 1 side Monaco, was tearful as he applauded all sides of the ground after being substituted five minutes before the end of the routine 2-0 victory over Forest.
Here’s a look at the memorable moments in the midfielder’s career.
Sensing the limited opportunities at Barcelona, a teenage Fabregas moved to north London in September 2003. He made history the following month when he became the youngest player to represent Arsenal in any competition, aged just 16 years and 177 days, in a 1-1 draw with Rotherham in the League Cup. It was not until the following season that he started to command a regular first-team spot, helping the Gunners to FA Cup glory after victory in the final over Manchester United – only a few months after throwing a pizza slice at Red Devils boss Sir Alex Ferguson following a tunnel bust-up dubbed ‘Battle of the Buffet’.
In November 2008, and by now a pivotal member of Arsenal’s first XI despite being only 21 years old, Fabregas succeeded William Gallas as club captain. It proved to be a bittersweet campaign for the youngster, though, as a knee injury sidelined him for four months while there was persistent speculation about a return to Barcelona. Fabregas’ efforts were not enough to help Arsenal to another major title, as they regularly came up short on both domestic and European fronts, and he joined his boyhood club in August 2011 for an initial £25.4million fee.
Ruling the world
While silverware with Arsenal in his latter years proved elusive, it was a different story with Spain. Fabregas scored the winning penalty in the Euro 2008 quarter-final penalty shootout win over Italy and was in the starting XI for their 1-0 victory over Germany in the Vienna showpiece, with his performances earning him a place in UEFA’s team of the tournament. He had more of a fringe role at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, yet he still made a decisive contribution after coming on as a substitute in the final, providing a telling assist for Andres Iniesta to score an extra-time winner against Holland.
Reign in Spain
Fabregas’ first season at the Nou Camp yielded trophies in the Copa del Rey, Supercopa de Espana, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup, and he once again came to the fore as Spain retained their European Championship crown in 2012. The 2012-13 campaign saw Fabregas break double figures in terms of goals – including his first senior hat-trick in a 5-0 win against Real Mallorca – as he got his hands on a league title for the first time in his career, with Barca notching up a record 100 points to regain LaLiga honours.
After three trophy-laden seasons with the Catalan giants, Fabregas moved to Chelsea for around £30million in June 2014 after Arsenal turned down a first option to buy him back. Fabregas said he had “unfinished business” in England – and in his first season with the Blues he duly realised his ambition of winning the Premier League, a little more than a decade since making his first domestic appearance. In October 2015 he earned his 100th cap for Spain, though he struggled to command a regular starting role under Antonio Conte as Chelsea romped to the league title in 2016-17. It has been a familiar story under Maurizio Sarri, paving the way for Fabregas’ expected exit from west London.