After Cesc Fàbregas said goodbye to Chelsea on Friday night, the club's social media team released a collection of his finest passes. Most were 40- or 50-yard passes, thrown from his own side. However, whether the ball is stroked, hit, sent to the sky or dragging on the ground, he always lands at the foot of a teammate. This caused the same silent fear of seeing a major golf winner repeatedly hit a flop heel within four feet of the flag, no matter how difficult the approach or dangerous lie.
I think that's how the Premier League will remember the Spaniard. Sitting deep, unlocking the defenses, redefining the art of assistance. Yet at its peak, between the early and mid-twenties, Fàbregas was much more than that. Not only a conjurer, but also an orchestral conductor, able to dictate the tempo and the running of a game, as well as modify it in an instant – and sufficiently buzzy to bypass the terrain and faces of l & # 39; opponent.
And could the boy create? Between 2006-07 and 2010-11, in the five biggest leagues in Europe, no one made more assists than Fàbregas' 60 goals – or created more than 466 chances. Not Lionel Messi. Not Xavi nor Mesut Özil, Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard, although they all ranked in the top 10. Fàbregas also presented 3.5 opportunities on average for every 90 minutes that he played – even better than anyone else in Europe.
How many goals could Arsenal have scored if Thierry Henry and Fàbregas had stayed together? Instead, the Spaniard had to serve Nicklas Bendtner, a Robin Linker from an attacker compared to Henry Lamborghini, as well as Andre Arshavin and Eduardo. Despite that, he continued to excel by scoring 15 goals and 13 assists in 27 games in the 2009-2010 Gunners season, despite several injuries. Ted Knutson, head of the StatsBomb football consultancy, who then carried out a statistical analysis of Fàbregas' merits for Barcelona: "This guy was the best young midfielder in the world. He was also the best offensive passer of the Premier League. "
Looking back, it's strange that Fàbregas has only been selected twice for the PFA team of the year. Once again, he is in good company as Paul Scholes has also been chosen only twice.
Maybe Fàbregas is not up to expectations, because, like Wayne Rooney and Mike Tyson, his development trajectory has been so steep and dramatic that his best years have come so early and are now well behind schedule on him. Remember that he was Arsenal's youngest player, 16 and 177 days old, one of many new players in a Carling Cup victory over Rotherham in October 2003 and became the club's youngest scorer 2 months later. This goal was marked by a 5-1 victory from an experienced Wolf team, after which my colleague Jon Brodkin praised Fàbregas' performance and purred: "It was men against boys, men have been outclassed.
The next day, Brodkin spoke with Liam Brady, head of youth development at Arsenal, who warned him that the Gunners starlets would be "20 or 21 years old" before they could "handle the physical side" of the first League. Yet in August 2004, at age 17, Fàbregas had imposed himself in the Invincibles team, undefeated since his first Premier League win. Shortly after, he made one of the best assists of his career: a superb unscrupulous pass for Freddie Ljungberg in a thrilling 5-4 win over the Spurs. There were many more to come.
Yet when it comes to assessing his place in the pantheon, his time in Barcelona still counts him. Being played as a fake nine always felt a bit wrong. During his three years at Camp Nou, Fàbregas was still among the top six assistants in Europe, behind Messi, Özil, Ángel di María, Franck Ribery and Eden Hazard, despite several injuries. And as Pep Guardiola said, "When Cesc has the ball, he is in a second the most special player in the world for that ball behind."
Nowadays, there is also a recency bias in the evaluation of Fàbregas' legacy. In the last two years, he has become slower and inevitably less effective. But not so long ago, he had set up the winner of Andrés Iniesta in the 2010 World Cup final, crossed for David Silva's first match against Italy. in the final 4-0 of Italy in the final of the Euro 2012, or got 18 endorsements in the 2014 win for the title -15 season – the second place common in Europe behind Kevin De Bruyne.
How could Chelsea do with this version of Fàbregas now. In the Premier League, no one has managed more than Jorginho this season, but he does not have a single helper. Four Chelsea defensemen are also in the top 10 of the passes played, highlighting – as Jermaine Jenas pointed out during Match of the Day – the fact that Maurizio Sarri's team plays too much at the back and does not not advance the ball quickly enough.
It's a charge you could never match at Fàbregas. No wonder Henry hopes that the Spaniard, who has provided so many helpers during his stay at Arsenal, will be able to help him once again by bringing Monaco out of a fight for relegation. Do not be surprised if the veteran locksmith always proves capable of undoing the toughest defenses.