Cesc Fabregas has been an important part of the Spain team for the past decade, helping La Roja to become European champions twice and forming an integral part of the world-beating midfield engine that drove Spain to their World Cup triumph in 2010, alongside Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez.
Fabregas made his international debut under Luis Aragones in a 3-2 friendly victory over Ivory Coast in 2006. The former Arsenal captain became Spain’s youngest player that day, aged just 18 years and 301 days, and since then has gone on become a permanent fixture in one of the most successful national teams in international football.
Now 29 years of age, Fabregas has been a key figure under Vicente del Bosque’s leadership and played a leading role in his country’s European Championship victories in 2008 and 2012. He also shone at the World Cup in 2010, supplying the pass for Iniesta's winning goal against the Netherlands in the final in Johannesburg as Spain became world champions.
Last October, Fabregas became Spain’s all-time record assist maker after helping Del Bosque’s team seal qualification for this summer’s tournament in France with a 4-0 win over Luxembourg in Logrono and marked the occasion by setting up Paco Alcacer with a slide-rule pass for the second goal.
Making his 100th appearance for Spain against Ukraine in Kyiv just days later, Fabregas stepped up to the penalty spot after being fouled in the box, only to see goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov tip his effort over the bar. Featuring in six games during Spain’s impressive qualifying campaign, Fabregas often represented reliability in a changing Spanish line-up.
Fabregas struggled to reproduce his best form in the Premier League this season as Chelsea endured a torrid first half of the campaign under Jose Mourinho and his creativity was stifled. Shouldering his share of the blame, the former Barcelona man rallied his colleagues to step up their game following the departure of the Portuguese.
Spain battled to regain their sparkle in their most recent friendlies, although a feasible explanation for their apparent malaise was the experimental nature of Del Bosque’s team selection in terms of both personnel and formation. Fabregas admitted after a 1-1 draw with Italy that Spain were below strength and that the Coach was “experimenting.”
Frequently deployed by Del Bosque in a false nine role in the absence of a genuine striker, Fabregas has been used by Chelsea as more of a defensive midfielder this season, as opposed to the attacking roles – as playmaker and even as a winger – he enjoyed at Barcelona.
Fabregas netted 42 times in 151 appearances for the Catalans, but was on target just six times this season for the Blues. The fact that he can excel in such a range of positions, however, is a mark of the versatility and experience he brings to his country.
With his squad going through a significant period of change, Del Bosque’s summer selection is eagerly awaited. The loss of Xavi, who retired from international football after World Cup 2014, will be acutely felt by Spain, for whom Iniesta could be playing in his final major international tournament. Amidst all the change, the stability Fabregas brings explains why, ultimately, Del Bosque will select him.