He has just played two high-level matches at the base of midfield in Niko Kovac’s 4-3-3 against Nantes, in AS Monaco’s 1000th Ligue 1 victory, and at Rennes. Against Les Canaris, he was even elected MVP of the match by the Red and Whites’ supporters. But above all, he reached a landmark 800 matches in his career, a record that speaks to his quality and experience. Very important in influencing the young Monegasque squad, according to the words of his coach, Cesc Fàbregas participated in the pre-match press conference, two days before Strasbourg’s visit to the Stade Louis-II.
Cesc, how do you feel in this new role as a deep-lying playmaker in front of the defense over these last two games?
It’s different, my position is different compared to the beginning of my career. But I think it’s better for me, at least it’s the best position I’ve played in over the past three years. This is what Niko Kovac thinks as well. I played as a number six with Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea, so I’m not new to the position. If you’re smart, structured and stick to the team’s plan, I think it’s my preferred position now and in the future.
Has hearing criticism been difficult for you over the past two years?
Criticism can hurt in the moment but is always constructive in my opinion. When you lose, the fans are not happy, that’s normal. Today it’s different so I’m very happy for that. I have been at big clubs in my career and our goal this season with AS Monaco is to return to the Champions League. So I’m happier, that’s obvious.
How have you experienced the arrival of Niko Kovac?
Since the coach’s arrival, there are a lot of very interesting things that have happened in terms of tactics and video analysis for example. It’s never easy to change coaches quickly, because two months before you were working on something and now things are different. For young players it isn’t always easy to accept and understand that, to quickly learn another way of playing. But I think that now we are on the right track with Niko.
Did the defeat in Rennes last week lead to disappointment after a good start to the season?
I think we had a great first half against Rennes. Even for 60-70 minutes we played a very decent game. Of course we were disappointed to lose at the end of the match, but when you look closely, there are still a lot of positive things to take away from this match against a team that will play in the Champions League this season. .
How do you feel physically at the moment?
The first part of last season I wasn’t feeling my best. But from the beginning of 2020 I have had a better sense of things and since the arrival of Niko Kovac, I feel really good. We work a lot physically, especially in the middle of the week, and I feel very good at the moment. The problem for me is not running or not running. If I play 90 minutes, I am consistently in the top three in the match (in terms of distance covered). Obviously, I can’t do 50-meter sprints on the wing like I did when I was 20 years old, but if we are playing together that’s okay and I believe in my qualities a lot. I fully accept the fact that I am not the same player, that I do not have the same legs as I was 20 years old.
Auteur de son 800ème match en pro face aux Canaris, le milieu de terrain espagnol est le joueur qui a été le plus influent dans le jeu dimanche. Retour sur sa prestation 👇 pic.twitter.com/qszjojAGa1
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) September 14, 2020
Are you feeling more fulfilled than last year?
Last year I was in a lot of pain because we weren’t on the same page, especially at the start of the season, and I wasn’t at my best physically. But this season I’m happy because I recovered well from my injury in preseason. And then the youngsters have been showing intelligence, discipline in training, they listen to what you tell them, and that I think is very positive for us and for our goals for the season.
Do you hope to end your career like Andrea Pirlo, when he was repositioned like you have been in front of the defense?
Andrea Pirlo is the best of the best, so yes I would like to end my career like him, always at the highest level. Anyway I think this is the ideal position for me now.
What is your opinion on the current situation at FC Barcelona?
It had to happen sooner or later, what happened at Barca. The club must always be at the top level. And obviously when you come to the end of a generation of exceptional players, it is not easy. Maybe we have to work differently now. I’m sorry to see this situation and sad for some players for what they gave to the club, but I’m sure the situation will improve. Things are likely to change.
📽 Son plus beau but ? Son meilleur souvenir ?
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) September 18, 2020