Spain's Cesc Fabregas, 35, a 2010 FIFA World Cup winner, took a look back on his three and a half years at AS Monaco as he announced his departure from the club on Saturday.
What was it like when you arrived in the principality in January 2019 - at Thierry Henry's proposal - with him being ousted a month after your arrival?
At the time, I signed with one objective: to save the team, which was then 19th with 13 points. I took a big risk, because relegation was possible. In the first match, we drew with Marseille (1-1, Round 20). Then, I scored against Toulouse (2-1, Round 23) in a victory that proved crucial for the rest of the season. We can be satisfied to have saved the team's top-flight status. I'm proud of what I contributed in those six months.
The following year was just as unstable...
The team started badly (first win after seven games) and so did I. The arrival of Robert Moreno in January made it possible to get better. We were good, especially in Paris (3-3, Round 20). But the season was interrupted because of Covid. Between Nice (1-2, 7 March 2020) and the resumption against Reims (2-2, 23 August), six months passed, with another change of coach. After an injury in pre-season, I played regularly and was consistent under Niko Kovac (the coach at the time).
What does that mean?
I played about 30 games (20 in Ligue 1 Uber Eats and five in the Coupe de France), coming off the bench a lot. I remember Paris, Brest, Lille where I had an impact on the game. Having that impact is always what I'm looking for. We've been on the podium. For me, these two and a half years have been positive. On the other hand, the past season was very bad, the worst of my career. By far! I've never experienced anything like it.
'I'm thinking of becoming a coach'
Did you have any influence in the Monegasque dressing room?
When I came here, Thierry Henry and Vadim Vasilyev also asked me to help the youngsters develop. That was an important point. Today, I have the feeling that I have earned the respect and sympathy of this young generation. I hope I have helped. We like each other [smile]. I will continue to follow them, to talk with them.
Or even coach them?
I've already told them! They know it [laughs]! But first, I still want to play. I don't want to end like this. It's been too bad a year to end like this. I want to have fun, to finish with good feelings. I have many contacts. Nothing is decided; I am listening. I am open to everything. Maybe the level of club will have to drop. But there are teams of a lower level in the Champions League. One thing is clear: I'll go to a club where I'll play, where they believe in me.
How much longer will you play?
I don't know. Time will tell. After that, I'm thinking of going into coaching as soon as possible. I'm passionate about this job. I want to learn more and more, to be well prepared. I'll take my qualifications in Spain. Andrés Iniesta and I have already discussed the possibility of doing the course together.
With the desire to bring Barcelona's DNA to life?
I have my own philosophy of the game. The style of a team always depends on the quality and characteristics of the players. You can't be crazy, otherwise you never win.
>> PLAYER PROFILE: Cesc Fabregas