Spain midfield star Cesc Fabregas admitted on Monday that he had taken on the biggest challenge of his career after completing his marathon move from Arsenal to the club he calls 'home,' European champions Barcelona.
The 24-year-old FIFA World Cup™ winner, who cost Barça €29million up front, signed a five-year contract and said that a weight had been lifted from his shoulders after the prolonged discussions that have been on and off for over a year.
"Yes, there have been some difficult days," said Fabregas, who left Barcelona eight years ago after a successful junior career alongside the likes of Lionel Messi. "Today [Monday], I feel a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders. But at the same time, it wasn't too painful. I have never really worried about my future, as I had already decided on it."
Fabregas, whose only trophy at Arsenal was the 2005 FA Cup, said that he felt he was at the right stage of his career to join Barcelona. "Two or three years ago I wasn't ready," he said. "But today I am. I had a lot of offer, and I have without doubt chosen the difficult one, but also the one which gives me most pleasure.
"I know that I am taking on the biggest challenge of my life: I am going to be competing with the best players in the world and some Barcelona supporters will not pardon me maybe for the fact I left here as a young man and will demand of me double the effort," he said. "But I am here to give everything, I do not want to disappoint anybody."
Barcelona deputy chairman Josep Maria Bartomeu confirmed the fee was €29million but that there were add-ons should certain targets be met. "In addition, if we win the league twice and the Champions league once in the next five seasons, Arsenal will receive a bonus of five million euros, two (million) for each league win and one for the Champions League," he told a news conference alongside Fabregas. "Furthermore, over the next five years...the club will pay one million euros to Arsenal on behalf of Cesc," who is taking a massive salary cut to come to Spain, he said.
Fabregas earlier appeared before some 35,000 cheering supporters at the Camp Nou stadium after passing a medical and signing the deal. "I would like to thank all the fans," he said. "I have been waiting many days, months, years for this day. It's very special day, to come home after eight years away. I am here to face the most incredible challenge of my life."
Arsenal announced on Sunday that they had finally agreed a deal for the transfer of Fabregas. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insisted he had to let Fabregas go because his captain was no longer completely committed to the Gunners. Wenger had forced Fabregas to stay at the Premier League club last season, but his often lacklustre performances hinted at his dissatisfaction and the French coach couldn't tolerate a repeat this term.
"Yes, we lost a world class player and we are sad about it. We did try to keep him but in the end we have to respect the desire of the player as well," Wenger told a press conference on Monday. "It is very difficult to get the best out of a player, he has to be completely committed to where he is. If you understand one thing, it is that Cesc didn't go for financial reasons. He wanted to go back to his home city.
Wenger father figure
Fabregas told the news conference that relations with Wenger remained strong. "I spoke with him on Friday to say goodbye. It was very emotional because he was like a second father for me. If I am here now it's in large part because of him. I can't thank him enough."
However, Fabregas said that the title drought hadn't been the sole reason for his wishing to leave, indeed it was more because he felt that the players just weren't there for Arsenal to challenge in the decisive moments of the season. "It was more than just the fact we didn't win trophies," he said. "It was the repetitive nature of how each season panned out. We would regularly play well, but when it came down to the final weeks we didn't have the energy to win either finals or semi-finals. We just fizzled out when it came to the final straight."
Fabregas made 303 appearances for Arsenal, scoring 57 goals in all competitions. Named as Arsenal captain in November 2008, Fabregas also became a regular in the Spanish national team and has been capped 58 times.