Unlike most, Cesc Fabregas has not come to the northern Italian lakes to relax. If anything, he’s just getting started.
The 35-year-old surprised the footballing world this summer when he packed up his Premier League, LaLiga and World Cup winners’ medals and headed to Serie B and little-known Como. However, there is a method to apparent madness.
Fabregas looks to the next stage of his career and embarks on the well-trodden path from player to manager. He has found the perfect learning environment in Italy’s second division.
Cesc Fabregas caused quite a stir this summer with his decision to join Como 1907 from Serie B
He’s backed by a club open to expanding their global reach and a CEO in Dennis Wise who’s only too happy to help another Chelsea icon on his way. Both help the Spaniard complete his UEFA coaching badges.
His notebooks also help him with this. Due to his own inclination that a move to the coaching dugout might one day be of interest, Fabregas began taking notes from all the managers he had the privilege of working with over the years.
These pages feature entries on some of the greatest managers of this century, with lessons learned from Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte, Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger.
As a player, it was his former Arsenal champions who impressed him the most.
“I always talk in my team,” he says sports mail. “I’ve always spoken out, expressed my opinion, I’ve had conversations with players, with coaches, always in a constructive way. Give your honest opinion.
Fabregas wants to move into management and has spoken of his admiration for Arsene Wenger
The Frenchman was Fabrega’s mentor when he broke into Arsenal’s first-team in 2003
“Arsene has always been very open to communication, very open to dialogue – “What do you think about this?” – asking questions. He has always tested you mentally.
“These days the coaches aren’t like that anymore. They’re more like, “It’s me, you do what I say and that’s it”.
“You have nothing to say. It’s a way for them to protect themselves so they don’t have to explain to anyone. You make your decisions. If you like it, you like it, if not, you’re out.
“That’s how it works with modern managers. I grew up in a different environment, with Arsene [Vicente] Del Bosque. That’s how I was and that’s how I will be. Always with respect, but the way I think it should.”
However, as Fabregas can attest, football evolves like anything else. The locker room and the training ground are no longer the only training places for aspiring coaches.
He just rattled off the Amazon Prime documentary series All or nothing to focus on his former club and give him the opportunity to study another head coach.
Mikel Arteta’s methods are laid bare on the show, and Fabregas believes he displays all the hallmarks of some of his most famous contemporaries. Arsenal’s current Premier League form – they are top of the Premier League at the international break – would suggest the Como midfielder is smart.
CEO Dennis Wise is helping the 35-year-old complete his UEFA coaching badges during his stay in Italy
“Sometimes we kill the manager first,” he says. “The coach is always the one who pays for everything.
“In this type of series, you can actually see a manager’s work, the number of hours they put into it, the messages they send, and then you judge yourself.
“I think Mikel comes across very well. Nowadays modern managers are like him. Guardiola is the same, Luis Enrique is the same, Conte, Mourinho.
“You can be more offensive, you can be more defensive – all these successful coaches are the same. The right message is that they want to win every single game, one way or another.
Fabregas says there is an exchange with Antonio Conte, he was glad it was never filmed on tape
‘One that you will like more is the football they play, like [Jurgen] Klopp and Guardiola. But they all have the same attitude towards the game, which convinces their players that this is the right way to win football games and win trophies.”
While Fabregas is delighted at the opportunity to see his former club, he is relieved he never found himself under the microscope on the other side of the screen.
Given his ambition to continue the game, he accepts the direction football coverage is taking and admits there are many moments in his own career – from ‘pizza gate’ to heated arguments with Antonio Conte at Chelsea -, which he’s glad escaped the cameras’ attention.
“I understand now, with social media, Amazon, Netflix is what’s selling now,” he says. “I’m enjoying watching it, I’m not sure how I would feel about being there!
Fabregas made his Como debut against Brescia in late August
“I’ve had moments in my career where I wouldn’t like to see myself in the dressing room.
“At Arsenal I was captain there, at Chelsea meetings with Conte, I don’t think I want to see that. Meeting with Marina [Granovskaia] when I told her I was leaving the club. There are a few.
“At the end of the day, you have to have personality to speak up and say your thing, but always in a respectful way.”
For now, he’s eschewing the lenses hidden in the hills of Lake Como amid the darkness of Series B.
He made his debut against Brescia in late August in front of a modest crowd of 4,754 that included Thierry Henry.
Like the Frenchman, Fabregas invested in Como 1907 after moving to the northern Italian Lakes, teaming up off the pitch with his old Arsenal mentor.
It gives the pair a voice when it comes to matters at the club, the most recent of which was ex-Torino manager Moreno Longo as head coach.
It also gives the rest of the squad another world-renowned star to look up to, which Fabregas insists cannot be underestimated.
“Thierry was very special as a teammate. I have nothing but praise for him,” said Fabregas, who scored his first assist in Como’s 3-3 draw with SPAL last weekend. “I was only 16 when I got into the first team [at Arsenal]. They welcomed me with open arms and I think Thierry is great. He’s someone I look up to.
Fabregas is also reunited with Thierry Henry in Como, who has joined the club as an investor
“It’s important for the club. When I came here, I knew they wanted to do something special. They wanted to bring some important people into the club to help it grow.
“It’s a statement from the club that we want to do well. We want this club to grow, come forward as soon as possible, bringing in someone of Thierry’s caliber will be very important.
“Already the players, they’re talking about it, they’re excited. You know when you have someone like Thierry on board. Subconsciously you will always feel the pressure – the good pressure. You want to give more.”
As his eyes turn to life on the sidelines, it’s clear that Fabregas still has a lot to give.
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