Cesc Fabregas has admitted it was a wrench leaving the Premier League for a second time as he looks forward to helping his old mentor Thierry Henry turn around the fortunes of Monaco.
The Spanish star moved to the Mediterranean principality last week from Chelsea, bringing to an end 13 years spent in England over two spells. He made his debut for his new club in Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Marseille.
“It was tricky for me to leave after 13 years in England. I started my career there, won a lot of trophies, played for two top clubs, and made more than 500 appearances. I sometimes even feel more English than Spanish,” said Fabregas as he spoke to journalists in Monaco on Wednesday.
The 31-year-old — who has also played for Barcelona — moved to the Stade Louis II on a three-and-a-half-year deal for a reported fee of 10 million euros ($11.5 million), having fallen out of favour at Stamford Bridge under new Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri.
“Three months ago I wasn’t thinking about leaving Chelsea, but the circumstances helped,” he said.
“I was getting less game time. At first, it was a surprise for me, but I came to the decision with my family. It is the best thing for my future. I feel like a young player again and can’t wait to get playing.”
Fabregas has teamed up again with Henry, the France great with whom he played at Arsenal at the start of his career and who became coach of Monaco in October.
“Thierry helped me a lot when I was young. He is one of the best players I have played with. This is a huge challenge. I am here to help him but also to help the club,” he added, with Monaco currently languishing in the Ligue 1 relegation zone.
“The club are not in a good position. We are in a negative moment but we can turn it around. The objective is to save the team and go far in the Cup to try to get into Europe next season. Everyone is looking at the challenge in a positive way.”
Fabregas was speaking after being presented along with Monaco’s other January signings: Brazilian defender Naldo and full-back Fode Ballo-Toure as well as midfielder William Vainqueur, who has joined on loan from Antalyaspor.
None of the quartet was eligible to play in Wednesday evening’s derby between Monaco and Nice, when Henry was due to go up against his old friend Patrick Vieira, another Arsenal great who is now the Nice coach.
Meanwhile, as the 2017 French champions try to pull themselves up the table, the club’s vice-president, Vadim Vasilyev, has admitted that their attempts to sign striker Michy Batshuayi on loan from Chelsea are being blocked for the moment by the English side.
The Belgian international is currently on loan at Valencia but the Spanish side are hoping to rid themselves of a player who has struggled to make an impression since moving to Mestalla at the start of the campaign.
Monaco are searching for an experienced goal-scorer to take some of the pressure off Radamel Falcao, but they want to take over the 25-year-old’s loan from Valencia.
“We have reached an agreement with the player. We are in agreement with Valencia. For the moment it is Chelsea who are blocking the deal because they prefer the idea of a transfer,” said Vasilyev.
“But everything can change very quickly in football.”
© Agence France-Presse (Additional edits by Michael Corry)