Both Spain and England Can Delight in the Rise of Cesc Fabregas

Alex StampCorrespondent IJanuary 19, 2010

BOLTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 17:  Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal competes with Tamir Cohen of Bolton Wanderers during the Barclays Premier League match between Bolton Wanderers and Arsenal at the Reebok Stadium on January 17, 2010 in Bolton, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

After another masterclass performance from the young Spaniard saw his Bolton team defeated, Owen Coyle was moved to speak in glowing terms about his conqueror. When asked about the quality of the midfielder, Coyle said: “Fabregas could play for anyone in world football – Barcelona or Real Madrid – because he's a top, top player.”

No doubt he could, and no doubt they wish that he was playing for them. But the compliment from Coyle spoke volumes for the level of performance that Fabregas has been delivering. In his previous match against Aston Villa, after turning the game on its head with a two-goal cameo, Martin O'Neill praised his “immense contribution.”

The midfielder has always been an accomplished performer, yet courtesy of a tactical reshuffle from Arsene Wenger, he now has the platform where he is now the heartbeat of this Arsenal team.

Perhaps inspired by the success Fabregas had at Euro 2008—where he shone as a makeshift No. 10, Wenger has sought to bring the midfielder further forward where he can both create goals, and score goals to great effect.

With 13 goals this campaign, he is well on the way to breaking his overall record of 14 goals for a season, and the way he is performing, few would doubt he has the quality to spearhead Arsenal's title challenge over the second half of the season.

But the rise of Fabregas goes beyond being simply a young player maturing into a world class player. If you go to the heart of Fabregas' development it goes beyond that, this is a young player who is effectively an amalgam of two footballing cultures, England and Spain.

Watch Fabregas play for a game and you can see his Spanish roots abundantly. The sureness of touch, the quickness of vision and the supreme timing and range of his passing.

The secret of Spain's current success? The passing ability of the likes of Xabi Alonso, Xavi, and Andres Iniesta for a start (though having Fernando Torres and David Villa as strikers helps).

Fabregas is very much of this mould, his Barcelona schooling giving him an education which has been taken further at Arsenal, and it remains a key part of his game. He is very much the embodiment of the Spanish ideology of football, a seemingly endless ability to pick out the perfect pass and to have time to do so under all manner of pressure.

And yet, in some other ways, he has developed an almost English-edge to his play. It is a curious question how Cesc would have matured had he stayed at Barcelona. Who knows, he may well have improved, he may have regressed.

But his decision to move to Arsenal showed a confidence and maturity which remain with him to this day. And for both Arsenal and Fabregas, the move has reaped rewards.

But one thing is sure, some of the traits which make Fabregas the way he is have developed because of this move. As a callow 17 year old, Fabregas was exposed to a higher level of football in the Arsenal first team than that of the Barcelona cantera where he was then based.

He was moving in circles belonging to the upper echelons of football, finding himself having to compete against the likes of Roy Keane, Steven Gerrard, and Claude Makelele. The boy didn't buckle, or waver in the face of such a challenge, and you can't buy that kind of experience and education.

And indeed it has helped improve his game. He has learnt to meld steel with style, he has a ruggedness, an edge to his game that has only improved with age. For a very Spanish import, he can  boast a very English robustness.

In many senses, it has improved his game, making it harder to knock him off his stride, meaning he contributes in a defensive sense, and allowing him to control play even amidst the hurly burly of the frenetic pace of the Premier League. Even lately against Bolton, he withstood all manner of physical intimidation and continued to dictate the flow of a game like the fine technician that he is.

It is this which has helped improve him beyond all measure. While it was not hard for those who saw Cesc Fabregas emerge as the 17 year old who, prompted Luis Aragones to say: “this kid will write golden pages in the history of football,” to imagine him reaching such a level of performance. 

But being promised such greatness and fulfilling it are two different things. For this, perhaps all football can rejoice as Fabregas looks set to fulfil his promise, and become one of the greatest players of his generation. The fact that at 22 he will only get better should only further underline the strides he has made in his young career.

And while he was, and is, very much of a son of Catalunya and a child of Spanish football, his education on the fields of English football has very much accelerated his growth. And for that, both Spanish and English football can take great credit for what an accomplished player he has become.