He kicked Roy Keane as a precocious teenager and, now, as a near pensioner with Chelsea, Cesc Fabregas is eager to win today’s FA Cup final and replace the winners’ medal he has lost.
Fabregas won the 2005 FA Cup, aged 18, with Arsenal, beating Keane’s Manchester United in a penalty shootout in the final in Cardiff.
The 31-year-old Spain playmaker hopes United will be beaten again at Wembley this weekend to give Chelsea the trophy.
“Everyone talks about the Champions League, the World Cup, the Euros, but I think if you are a bit of a romantic, the FA Cup is always very special,” Fabregas said.
“It is not easy to get into FA Cup finals. We have to value that, we have to appreciate that, go into Saturday knowing that if we win, we are winning a special trophy.”
Fabregas demonstrated his romantic side this week, marrying Daniella Semaan, the mother of his three children.
And he also reflected on the final 13 years ago — his one FA Cup winners’ medal.
“I remember kicking Roy Keane in a good one-on-one,” said Fabregas, who was a second-half substitute as the Blues lost last year’s final to Arsenal.
“I won that one so I was happy. Then I remember when Patrick (Vieira) scored the winner.
“I think it was his last kick as well for Arsenal (before joining Juventus). It was a nice moment. Good celebrations.”
Keane was a fearsome opponent, but Fabregas insisted there was no retribution from the United captain.
“I got away because he was on the floor, so he could not say anything,” Fabregas added. “He couldn’t get hold of me.”
Fabregas cannot locate the medal from that final.
His father used to store his medals for him but the 2005 FA Cup medal cannot be found.
The 2010 World Cup winners’ medal was discovered, after initially being mislaid.
Fabregas said: “My dad used to keep them and once I grew up, one day I said: ‘Listen, where are all my medals and stuff?’
“He nearly lost the World Cup one even. It was in my mum’s house in a box. I have nearly all of them but I’ve lost two or three.
“This FA Cup one, I cannot find it.”
Manager Antonio Conte, meanwhile, says he is a hero for Chelsea even if the Blues finish this season with defeat in what could be his final match as head coach.
A fifth-placed finish in the Premier League, missing out on Champions League qualification, came as part of a season of discontent for Conte.
The Italian last year won the Premier League title in his first season and signed an improved contract, but not an extension, to the deal which runs until June 2019.
And speculation has been rife that owner Roman Abramovich is preparing to make a managerial change this summer.
“I can say for sure this will be my last match this season,” Conte said.
“For me and my players it will be the last game for us. Then, as you know very well, I have a contract and I’m committed to the club.
“In every season you must divide the responsibility, positive or negative, with three parts: Club, manager, and players.
“Last season we were heroes. This season we are… I don’t know what we are to people, but I don’t care. It doesn’t matter.
“I didn’t change my commitment for the club. My commitment has always been the same. Maybe this season we worked harder than last season.
“I don’t know if something has changed. We were heroes for Chelsea’s fans.
“But in my soul and my heart, I’m always a hero because I gave 120%, also this season to solve the problems.”
Conte’s belief he has worked harder this season is based on the adversity he says he has faced.
He has made repeated thinly-veiled criticisms of the Chelsea hierarchy, notably over transfer activity, since the title success.
“Usually, when you have a lot of positive situations, it’s more simple,” Conte added.
“When you have a negative situation, then you must be prepared to work very hard, to work to improve every aspect.
“I think in this season, I did this together with my staff.”
The 48-year-old calmly addressed questions about his position, insisting the success of his spell — whether it comes to an end or not after today’s match — cannot be judged solely on silverware.
“There are other people to judge your work, to judge the season,” he added.
“I don’t think I’d be the right person to say: ‘OK, if we win I plan this situation’, or ‘if we don’t win, I plan another situation’. I’m not interested in this.
“I’m interested in winning the final. This is the most important thing for me, for my players.
“It’s right to separate the two things because, otherwise, if you don’t win it means you didn’t work very well.
“Sometimes you can win but the club decides to sack you anyway because they have a reason to do this.”
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