Cesc Fabregas said Real Madrid made multiple attempts to sign him during his time with Arsenal, but he turned down the chance to join the Blancos.
After coming through the ranks at Barcelona, Fabregas joined Arsenal’s academy in 2003 in search of a better route to first-team minutes.
Fabregas would get just that in north London, becoming Arsenal’s youngest ever player when he made his senior debut in October 2003 aged 16 years and 177 days.
The midfielder would develop into one of Europe’s brightest talents, helping the Gunners to the 2004-05 FA Cup title and the 2005-06 Champions League final.
Madrid would make their first attempt to sign Fabregas when he was still a teenager, but the young star felt a desire to repay the faith his manager showed him.
“They called me more than once or twice,” Fabregas told AS of Real Madrid.
“The first time I was very young. I was 18 and they offered me a big salary, but I felt like I belonged at Arsenal.
“(Arsene) Wenger had bet the farm on me. I couldn’t leave.
“In any case, I’ll always be grateful to Madrid for the way they treated me. When I was 23 I had a serious calf injury and they sent me a really nice message.
“I’m grateful for their interest in me but I always dreamed of playing for Barca.”
In 2011, after eight seasons with Arsenal, Fabregas returned to his boyhood club and signed with Barcelona.
After three seasons with Barcelona, Fabregas returned to England with Chelsea, where he would play an additional five campaigns.
Fabregas joined Monaco in January 2019. Now 32, Fabregas says he is still hungry to keep playing, though he is also eyeing a future as manager.
“I still want to play. I’m still enthusiastic and in my head I’m still in the zone,” Fabregas said.
“I’m happy when I go in to train and I get angry when I lose a game. As long as that’s still the case I’ll keep going.
“Although it’s true that now I analyse the game more than I used to and I feel a coaching instinct that I didn’t have before. We’ll see.”
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