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Fabregas: 'I'm not afraid of a challenge'

Publish on 06/04/2019 at 00:00 - S. WILLIS


Cesc Fabregas is enjoying life at AS Monaco and says coach Leonardo Jardim has something of Jose Mourinho in an exclusive interview with The Ligue 1 Show. Part One of a two-part Q&A with the FIFA World Cup and EURO winner...

Q. Cesc Fabregas thank you very much for giving us some time. I want to start out by asking how you are. It’s been just over two months since you joined Monaco, in the league things have been going extremely well recently – unbeaten under Leonardo Jardim – how have you found the first few weeks here? 

CF.  Well… very entertaining to be honest. Many things happened. I was very excited to come here in the first place. I felt it was a very difficult moment for the club. The club believed in me to be the man to change a little bit the dynamic of where the club was going… it was suffering defeat after defeat, and there was this nervousness around the club where you could feel that maybe the club could be going to the second division, which is not where this club deserves or should be. And that’s it. I took the challenge. I came here with Thierry to try and help the team as much I can. Then, as we all know, many things happened, and it’s true that the dynamic of the team changed, and we’re doing well now.

To be honest, since I’m here we have only lost two games that I can remember that I played in. So… one was really bad, against Strasbourg, but I still believe if you watch the game again everything went against us. It was one of the most strangest games I’ve played even. So many things happened. Then against Dijon, you know, when the transition between Thierry and Jardim was happening. So the rest… we drew against Marseille on my debut, we beat Lyon, we beat Lille… we have had some positive performances all around, so we have to be happy of how it’s gone so far. But we don’t have to think that it’s safe or that it’s done. Still nine games to go, hopefully we can push up the table and reach better places. 

Q. It’s a brave choice in many ways, especially for somebody who has played for top teams. You’ve always been fighting for trophies, maybe Monaco will soon be fighting for trophies. But at Monaco for the first time you’ve tasted a relegation struggle. Could you tell us what it’s been like, what the atmosphere has been like at the club. You said there was some tension when you arrived? 

Cesc Fabregas: Yes definitely. I knew where I was getting to. At the beginning I was a little bit unsure about the situation. As you well said, it’s not the same to be always competing for trophies and to be fighting for relegation. Thierry believed in me a lot, Vadim believed in me a lot, and I wanted… you know, I’m not afraid of challenges. Of course I will not take a stupid challenges. But it’s a challenge I believe I could have a very positive impact in. And I just tried to do my best to be honest.

I’m ambitious but at the same time I love to find new situations in my career. I am one of these guys that sometimes when I’m very comfortable in a place or I’m a long time in a place I like new challenges, I like new things to try and to prove myself all over again and to be able to do that, you know, at my age – I’m not saying I’m old but obviously I’ve been playing for 16 years, I’ll be 32 next month, you know when you’ve been always at the top winning, winning, winning, competing – and then to come here, yes, I believe not many people would understand why I do it.

But I can always say when I’ve finished that I’ve been able to compete in different situations. Fighting for the World Cup, to Champions League to Premier League to fighting not to go down and actually have a positive on the team in a small amount of time to be able to save ourselves. So yeah, I’m not afraid of challenges because I think it gives you so much as a person… not only as a player… because I’m a competitor… and people, some people may not agree or see the way I see it, but definitely for me it was a big challenge and one that I really wanted to do in the end. 

Q. How did Thierry convince you to come and what was it like during those few weeks you got to work with Thierry. What was he like as a manager, different I guess to your playing days… 

Cesc Fabregas: He’s a very young manager, full of energy, full of ideas, and you know he tried to transmit what he wanted to do. He wanted to change a few things around and he had a lot of injuries to be honest, 17 injuries when I first came here, so sometimes we were playing with many players of the Under-18s, Under-19s. They have a lot of talent obviously, but it’s not the same you know when the team is going well. You are in a good moment and you come into the team when everything is positive, rather than when you are fighting for relegation.

You are under a lot of pressure because you see the fans are a little bit unsure about the situation, there are a little bit of broom-brooms around the stadium, and for a young guy, you would rather come in to the side when everything is going well than the things that were happening. But Thierry, I’m sure, I believe that he will have a top career as a coach. He needs more experience because this is only his first job and it was a big one, it was a big job to be honest. But I wish him all the well, and I’m sure he’ll do good. 

Q. You talked about your first matches. I was at the Velodrome for your debut. The Velodrome is an amazing stadium but it was a strange night because the Marseille fans were really hostile against their team. What do you remember from your debut, I guess it was an unusual evening for you? 

Cesc Fabregas: Yes it was. On the Thursday night at 1 am my agent calls me that we were taking off at 6am to Nice, because Chelsea have allowed me to fly to Nice to pass my medical. And yes, Friday was a day full of exams. I mean I’ve never done so many exams in my life. And that means that I was well and fit – that’s for sure after what I did! And then I finished at night.

Then the next day I just trained, I met my teammates, we trained for a little bit and we travelled to Marseille to play the day after. So yes, everything was really fast, and nice to be honest. It’s a sad day because you are leaving a club, and a league… let’s say a life that I had for the last 16 years. But it was a really exciting moment and I think it went very well to be honest, my debut, we should have won I think. 

Q. Monaco played well…. You mentioned Strasbourg. When you were 5-1 down – and I know you had a lot going against you – but did it ever cross your mind at some point ‘What have I got myself in to here?’? 

Cesc Fabregas: It was a difficult night, yes. And it was my first game at the Stade. But… I remember the fans being really upset about it. We had to go over to them to calm them down, to talk to them a little bit… so yeah, at that moment you are like ‘wow, my first game and it’s a mess’. But at the same time I thought the game was so strange. After five minutes were one man down… I think Naldo was sent off, right, after five minutes? Then straight away they had like two great headers, like in the top corner. Then we came back in to the game, we played well in the first half… then Rony Lopes had a penalty in our favour, which for some reason VAR was not working… and then they scored the third. Then, yes, after that we collapsed and we were not good enough let’s just say, and the game finished really badly.

But overall I thought that for 70 minutes, with a man down, it wasn’t that bad as the scoresheet reflected. So I had that positive, and I felt the Marseille game was positive… I’m a very positive, optimistic guy so… that’s how I am and that’s why I took this challenge, otherwise I would never be here taking a risk on my career to be able to go down in France. I think the opposite. If I can help this club to maintain themselves in Ligue 1 and then next summer build from there, start to be positive and bring the club back up… This is how I think, this is how I am, and that’s why I’m here today. 

Q. When you joined Monaco a lot of people in France assume you are going to walk straight in, be one of the best players in the league, be a leader for Monaco. From your point of view, it’s a new league, a new club… I guess when you got that win and you scored the winning goal against Toulouse – your first goal in the league – I guess that even at your age and with everything you have achieved, it must feel good to get that first goal for your new club? 

Cesc Fabregas: Yes, definitely. I mean it’s not just because of the goal, it’s because of the situation, because of what’s happening, and the surroundings… ‘are we going to do it, are we not going to do it, is he going to adapt’… you know, things like that. But I love in a way to prove people wrong and to prove myself all the time. It’s not about them, but I think yes, everyone likes it when they… you know they say ‘he cannot do it’ or ‘he’s gone there for this and that’… and then you do the opposite. It gives you a satisfaction. And then obviously, firstly for myself because this is what I wanted to do.

But yes, it is a tough challenge and as we said, we are in a good position now, but it’s not done. We need to do more and if one day, hopefully soon, we are mathematically safe then we will want more. We will not just go on holiday until next season and see what’s happening, we want to get the tenth place, if we can then we will go for it. And that’s the ambition I think we need to do and I think Jardim made it very very clear.

Q. Obviously Monaco’s immediate objectives are to keep pulling away from the relegation zone. What are the objectives looking further ahead? Can this football club get back to where you perhaps think it belongs, competing at the top? 

Cesc Fabregas: Yes, I do. I really believe that, and that’s why I’m here. Again, of course now the main objective is to be safe completely from the objective which is the relegation. But yeah, after that we have to look forward without stopping. And definitely next year if we do maintain the situation and the run and we safe, next year will be a very important season for the club and we need to compete very well and I think we can do that for sure. 

Q. Do you think Leonardo Jardim is the man to do it? He’s done it before. How have you found working with him? 

Cesc Fabregas: Yes, very good. I didn’t know him before. I’d heard of him, I’d heard about him, and his teams, but you know when you see things first hand it’s always much better. You can analyse the situation in another way. He has his ideas very clear, he knows what he wants to do, he knows what the team has to do. And you know, I will not say it’s simple, but what he makes us do in training is normally what happens during the game.

What I like about him is he is flexible, he’s a flexible manager, and he adapts. He always looks about what he wants to do, what his team wants to do, so us. But we analyse the opponents, you know, if they have a weakness on the right we will try to exploit it. So he’s a tactician, you know. Very very good man. And in a way… yes, I don’t like to compare, but the methodology that he uses reminds me a little bit of Mourinho. And yeah, I enjoyed a lot as everyone knows with Jose, and I’m enjoying it as well with Jardim.