Ever since taking his first steps on the professional footballing ladder, Cesc Fabregas has been going places fast. The youngest player ever to turn out for Arsenal's first team, as well as the youngest-ever goalscorer for the north London giants, who he joined fresh from Barcelona's youth ranks in 2003 at the age of just 16. His mentor Arsene Wenger has supported the young prodigy every step of the way, with the 21-year-old taking the next step in his development this season after being handed the Gunners' captaincy.
Yet another product of the fabled Can Barça that spawned fellow midfield visionaries Xavi and Andres Iniesta, this Catalan schemer possesses immaculate technique and anticipation, which give him a vital edge in crowded penalty areas. Nor is he one to shirk his defensive duties, while his powerful and accurate shooting makes him a danger from distance.
Fabregas burst onto the global stage with an inspirational display at the 2003 edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Finland, finishing up as top scorer and being voted the tournament's best player after driving Spain to the final, where they were beaten by the mighty Brazil.
A virtual ever-present coming up through the Spanish youth categories, Fabregas made his senior international debut in March 2006 - in time to earn a place in La Roja squad for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™. Despite Spain's exit in the second round, his own stock continued to rise, with his name appearing in the six-strong shortlist for the tournament's best young player award, won by Germany's Lukas Podolski.
Success at full national-team level did come at UEFA EURO 2008, with the youngster showing a cool head and no little heart to score the decisive penalty in the shootout victory over quarter-final opponents Italy: the first penalty of his professional career.