Cesc Fabregas has confirmed he was close to a move to Real Madrid and weighed up Barcelona’s chances in the weekend’s Clasico.
“Clasico games are tremendous. We’d be at our highest level, they were the best matches we could play,” he enthused as talk turned to Saturday’s game at Santiago Bernabeu.
“They’re brutal. I loved playing at the Bernabeu. I never lost. I enjoyed it. The atmosphere is spectacular.
“Jose Mourinho’s presence was a bit of a motivating factor. He was our rival, like Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Cristiano Ronaldo. We wanted to win at Real Madrid but not for individual reasons. It was Barca looking to win, not beat Mourinho.
“Now he’s my manager. It’s football, nothing more. Football is very fast, faster than people think.”
Cesc was asked if there was any truth in stories from the past linking him with a switch to the capital, and confirmed there was.
“There were contacts over several years and with different Presidents. No deal was ever closed. There were talks, but no final agreement. The decisive step was missing,” he admitted.
Today’s Clasico was assessed by Cesc and he suggested so much depends on the fitness or otherwise of former teammate Lionel Messi in a game that will be lacking some familiar faces.
“The first Clasico without Iker Casillas and Xavi Hernandez [for 17 years]…strange isn’t it? They’re the game’s most important figures, with Carles Puyol,” he contended.
“Of the people left, there’s Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta…Xavi, Iker and Puyi won’t be forgotten. It’s strange, but it’s guaranteed to be a spectacle.
“We’ll have to wait and see if Leo is there or not, and now Madrid approach the game, because Barca will play 4-3-3 and have possession. That’s the style, attack, possession.
“There are more doubts about how Real Madrid will play. Favourites? I think Barca are the better team.
“Look what happened with Luis Enrique. Now he’s an idol. I don’t understand what is said about Rafa Benitez. They’re not playing well but they’re winning. When you don’t play but you win, it strengthens the team mentality.”