With the World Cup in Russia fast approaching, now seems like the ideal time to get a bit nostalgic about World Cups past.
In this new feature, I’ll be taking a look at the careers and highlights of the various Premier League players to have won the World Cup.
Some starred across the tournament that their nation won, for others it may not have been their perfect performance individually, but their success as part of the collective warrants acclaim.
Somewhere between those two poles falls Cesc Fabregas.
Fabregas was part of the uber-dominant Spanish national side that achieved glory across three consecutive tournaments at the end of the last decade.
Winning both Euro 2008 and 2012 is an outstanding achievement, but the World Cup win in 2010 will forever be considered the crowning glory for a team that has a genuine claim to be considered the best ever national side.
As hinted at above, Fabregas was hardly the star performer in this Spanish side, but neither was he unimportant.
By 2012, Spain began to play a system that often required Fabregas to play in a false-nine role, but in 2010, he was very much still an out-and-out midfielder.
Yet in this role, he was far from first-choice. The 2010 Spain vintage had an embarrassment of midfield riches to draw upon. Each of Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso, Xavi and Andres Iniesta were ahead of Fabregas in the pecking order.
In fact, Fabregas didn’t start a single game at the 2010 tournament. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t have an impact.
In extra-time of the final, of all games, Fabregas set-up Iniesta to score the winning goal.
Thanks to his natural calmness he was able to deliver the perfect pass in what was the biggest moment in the history of his national side, and for that reason, he will be forever adored by Spanish fans and entirely worthy of his winner’s medal.
Before the World Cup Win
Fabregas was still an Arsenal player when he won the World Cup with Spain.
Having broken through into the Gunners’ first team in the 2005–2006 season, by 2008, Fabregas had established himself as one of the best midfielders in the league. That season, he was named Arsenal captain and would be instrumental in blending the “old” and “new” guard during what was a key period of transition for the club.
From then on, however, Fabregas tenure at Arsenal will be most remembered for the near-constant courting of his signature by Barcelona, culminating in him being draped in a Barcelona shirt during the 2010 World Cup final celebrations by Iniesta and Puyol, and his eventual transfer to the Catalan giants.
After the World Cup Win
Once he had helped win the World Cup for Spain, whose team was so heavily centred around Barcelona players, and after everything that went on in the post-final celebrations, his transfer to Barcelona became a matter of when, not if.
A final season at Arsenal saw an initial promise of a Quadruple fall by the wayside with defeats to Barcelona in the finals of the Champions League and Birmingham in the League Cup, and FA Cup and League disintegration.
The Barcelona side Fabregas joined in 2011 was arguably one of the most successful club sides in history. Three league titles and two Champions League titles in the three seasons prior to his arrival proved a hard act to follow. Though in his first season, Barcelona and Fabregas won the Copa Del Rey, Supercopa de Espana, Uefa Super Cup, and Fifa Club World Cup, and then the La Liga title in his second campaign, Fabregas never won the Champions League with Barca and arguably suffered through a period of extended disappointment in the performance of the Catalans.
In some quarters, Fabregas was made a scapegoat for the perceived underperformance of the team, and his final years in Barcelona were somewhat tarnished by this souring of the relationship between him and the fans.
In 2014, Fabregas joined Chelsea and has since won two league titles, an FA Cup and a League Cup in his time in West London.
Still going strong in the Premier League, Fabregas has won almost everything going (bar the elusive Champions League), but of all his medals, I’m sure his World Cup Winner’s gong takes pride of place on his mantle.
Written by Jackson Rawlings.