'That was for the Arsenal fans' says Euro champ Cesc
ENGLAND s absence from Euro 2008 left most fans looking to bask in reflected glory, and Cesc Fabregas allowed Arsenal supporters to do just that on Sunday. Spain ended their 44-year wait for a trophy by beating Germany in the final in Vienna, and Arsenal
ENGLAND's absence from Euro 2008 left most fans looking to bask in reflected glory, and Cesc Fabregas allowed Arsenal supporters to do just that on Sunday.
Spain ended their 44-year wait for a trophy by beating Germany in the final in Vienna, and Arsenal's Fabregas was very much part of that side.
Having only been on the bench for four of Spain's first five matches in the tournament, Fabregas was included from the start on Sunday, having made such a strong impression in his cameo substitute appearances.
And although he was replaced just after the hour mark of the final, the job of subduing Germany had been done and the 1-0 scoreline stayed the same to give Luis Aragones' side the trophy.
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For Spain and Fabregas, the tournamant was an undoubted triumph, but the Gunners midfielder did not forget his club loyalty in the aftermath of Sunday's win.
"Of course, that was the happiest day of my life as a professional footballer," said Fabregas.
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"It was also for the Arsenal fans that have been suffering a lot this year. For them, at least one player has won something. It is for them."
Still only 21, Fabregas has played in a Champions League final, a Carling Cup final and an FA Cup final for Arsenal, but has won only the latter, and even in that penalty triumph over Manchester United in Cardiff in 2005 he was substituted before the end of normal time.
That winners medal remains his only one from almost five years at Arsenal, and that is something Fabregas would like to change next season.
"I haven't seen for a long time a team playing such nice football [as Spain], playing the ball around and playing beautiful football and to get a trophy as big as that," he said this week.
"Now at Arsenal we have more or less the same quality of game so hopefully the football will also get better and better for Arsenal.
"Now next year I want to win trophies with Arsenal, this is my target. I finally made something at a young age, I never expected it to be with Spain. Now I want to do it with Arsenal."
The irony that Fabregas was celebrating alongside a number of the Barcelona players who had deprived him and Arsenal of Champions League glory in Paris in 2006 was not lost on Gunners fans.
The likes of Carles Puyol, Xavi and Andres Iniesta were among the architects of Arsenal's demise that night in the Stade de France, a memory clearly still fresh for Fabregas.
It is often forgotten that the score was still 1-0 to Arsenal when Fabregas made way for Mathieu Flamini after 74 minutes of that game.
He may have feared the same outcome when he trudged off against Germany, but this time there was a happy ending for Spain's No10.
"Does it make up for Paris?" he added. "Definitely - I can see there is a massive difference between losing and winning in a final.
"Even if they say being a finalist is important, there is no way you can replace the feeling of winning.
"It's the second trophy - I have an FA Cup [for Arsenal]. But of course a European Championship is not the same.
"We are very young and of course now we will go for the World Cup," he added confidently, but before that come two seasons that could well define the player's legacy at Arsenal if, as is one day expected, he does return to Spain.
In all probability that would be to the Nou Camp, from where Arsene Wenger somehow prised the then 16-year-old in September 2003 - with every passing season that is looking more and more like one of the Arsenal manager's greatest transfer coups, even for a man with his fine track record.
Five years on, Barcelona are still incensed by that transfer, at how one of the biggest clubs in the world could lose one of their own prize assets to a foreign club at such a young age.
But Fabregas was frustrated at Barca, and his position in the Spain squad probably shows exactly why.
Despite his feted status in England, where he is one of the Premier League's top midfielders, in Spain he still ranks behind Iniesta and Xavi, the same two players who were barring his path from the Barcelona youth ranks.
Fabregas knew he would never be given the volume of games at the Nou Camp that he could expect under Wenger at Arsenal, and so it has proved.
Despite still being so young, Fabregas now has 170 starts under his belt for Arsenal, and more than 30 of those have been in the Champions League.
The murmurings will now once again surface about Fabregas moving back to Barcelona, but he is tied to Arsenal until 2014 and will certainly not be going anywhere this summer, except on a well-deserved holiday.
However, Wenger and the Arsenal hierarchy will be only too aware that their prize jewel is now even more coveted on the continent after his displays at Euro 2008.
If Arsenal cannot compete at the top table at home and abroad next season, the harsh truth is that they will struggle to hold on to Fabregas this time next year.