Jose Mourinho has taken a pot shot at Arsenal, by revealing signing Cesc Fabregas was one of the easiest transfers he has experienced.
Having left Barcelona for the Gunners as a teenager in 2003, Fabregas spent eight years in North London during which time he established himself as one of the best midfield players in Europe. But after growing frustrated at the lack of silverware at the Emirates Stadium, the Spanish international secured a return to his hometown club in a £28million deal back in the summer of 2011.
Fabregas helped Barca win six trophies, including the Copa del Rey in 2012 and the league title the following year, but he failed to establish himself as a first team regular. So when he became available for transfer this summer, it was widely expected that he would return to Arsenal, after Arsene Wenger secured a first-option to take him back when he sold him three year previous.
The Frenchman, though, was in two minds about taking the 27-year-old back, having spent a club record £42.5million on German playmaker Mesut Ozil in 2013. So when Mourinho made an offer of £30million to take him to Chelsea, the player agreed to the controversial switch. As Fabregas prepares to face his former pals for the first time on Sunday, the Portuguese coach has risked upsetting the fans of his rivals by claiming that signing their former midfielder was one of his easiest transfers.
“When I invite him for the meeting, he told me immediately ‘Yes,’ so that’s one point,” Mourinho said. “I spoke with him and, after 10 minutes, he was telling me he wants to join us. Yes, it was one of my easiest signings. He was really happy to join us and after that, my club was so fast and so strong in doing things. Normally, these things take more time. My club was fantastic.
“Cesc and I spoke about football, the Chelsea project, the way I want him to transform my team, the Chelsea philosophy. We spoke in general terms about what we would be able to pay to Barcelona and what we would be able to pay to him – not to be decided there because that is not part of my job but just to give him an idea. And, after that, he was telling me: ‘Yes. I want to go. No doubt.’”
A win for Chelsea would give them a nine-point cushion over their capital rivals which, considering only seven games will have been played, would be a huge blow to Wenger’s hopes of winning a first league title since 2004. The corresponding fixture last season resulted in a 6-0 win for the home side, and the French coach admits this was a particular low-point of his time in England.
“It was a massive, massive disappointment, but on the other hand I must say that afterwards we showed great strength,” said Wenger. “The way we responded until the end of the season would not have happened at many clubs. I will never forget that day, but was very proud with how we responded. It was the lowest point of the season. When we lost 8-2 at Old Trafford (in August 2011) we had no team on the day, with nobody at the back, so that was explainable.”
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