Father-figure Arsene Wenger is the reason I'm at Barcelona, says former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas
The 24-year-old midfielder was presented by the Catalans on Monday, but says he will be forever grateful to his former club and manager for giving him a chance in north London
New Barcelona signing Cesc Fabregas says he is 'happy to be home' after sealing his €29 million transfer to the Catalan club, but claims he owes everything to Arsenal and former manager Arsene Wenger. Fabregas passed a medical on Monday morning before signing a five-year deal with Barca for an initial €29m plus variables to bring an end to the protracted transfer saga, which has dragged on for the last three summers.
Cesc, who will wear the number 4 shirt, was presented to some 20,000 fans at Camp Nou and then unveiled to the press following a video montage showing some of his best career moments. "I am very grateful to be back home," he said. "I felt I had to catch this train. I didn’t know if the train would come by again; I thought maybe this would be my last chance to come to Barca."
Fabregas links up with Barca coach - and former idol - Pep Guardiola and revealed his excitement at playing for the club's most famous number 4. "Pep is a great coach and I am looking forward to working with him," he stated. "Whether it's the Copa Catalunya or the Champions League, I will be at his disposal."
Nevertheless, Fabregas remembered that he wouldn't be here without Arsenal and says he will always be a Gunners fan. "All I can have is gratitude," he said. "I will never forget what they did for me and I was very, very sad to be leaving - I spent one third of my life there."
And Cesc claims his one big regret is failing to secure silverware as captain of the north London club. "That's the biggest regret I will have probably, not to be able to lift a trophy as an Arsenal captain," the midfielder stated. "I will be watching them every weekend; I will always be an Arsenal fan."
Fabregas signed a long-term deal with the Gunners in 2006 and saw his loyalty questioned as he pined for a Camp Nou return, but believes he made the right decision at that point in his career. "I signed a new contract because at that point there had been no sign of any interest from Barcelona," said Fabregas. "Pep wasn’t here and there had been no talk or anything from Barcelona. I knew that one day I wanted to go back but at that moment I was young, I was 20, I had just played in a Champions league final and I was happy to stay at Arsenal. I don’t regret it because that was what was best for me at the time."
Fabregas also hailed his old boss who he left behind in London after six years together. "Wenger was like a father to me," said Fabregas. "He did so much for me and without him I wouldn’t be here now. I spoke to him on Friday and it was so hard. At one point I couldn’t even talk because I was so sad. It was hard to say goodbye and hard to leave. He has done more for me than anyone and he is the best person I have met in football."
Cesc could now make his debut in Wednesday night's Supercopa second-leg match against Barca's fierce rivals Real Madrid, following the sides' entertaining 2-2 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday evening.
"I didn't see the first match because I was flying, but I am fit and ready to play on Wednesday if needed and I am ready to give my best from day one," he concluded.