AS Monaco midfielder Cesc Fabregas has spoken about his decision to leave Arsenal for a return to Barcelona in 2011, saying Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri were the only players at his level.
Fabregas, 32, left La Masia (Barcelona’s academy) to join Arsenal in 2003, but he went on to win only a single major trophy in eight years with the Gunners. Van Persie arrived in north London one year after Fabregas, while Nasri didn’t join from Marseille until 2008.
The Spain international was interviewed on the Arseblog podcast and opened up about his motivation to leave the Emirates Stadium, sensing the squad wasn’t at the standard to contest the biggest titles:
“We were playing beautiful football and I enjoyed that side of things but I was putting pressure on myself to lead, to do everything and at one point I felt kind of lonely.
"Especially in the last two or three years, I felt Robin and Samir were the only players - it's not an arrogant thing to say, it's how I felt at that time - were the players who were at my level mentally and technically.
"Many things came in my head, I have to admit I was a bit empty, I was drained mentally, technically, in my soul knowing I'm giving everything, knowing a few signings the club could have made but didn't happen.”
Nasri joined Manchester City in the same summer that Fabregas returned to Barcelona, while Van Persie left it another year before he departed for Manchester United. None of those transfers were unanimously well received among Arsenal fans.
Thierry Henry was a senior figure at the Emirates when Fabregas first emerged at the club, but he left for his own transfer to the Camp Nou in 2007.
Fabregas played the entirety of his Arsenal career under Arsene Wenger, and the Gunners developed a reputation for struggling to complete the grand signings they were linked with.
The former Arsenal and Chelsea playmaker also expanded upon the unprofessional behaviour from other players that helped convince him he was in the wrong dressing room, via ESPN UK:
Fabregas spent three seasons back at the Camp Nou and won six trophies during that spell: One La Liga crown, one Copa del Rey, one FIFA Club World Cup, a UEFA Super Cup and two Spanish Super Cups. It would be fair to suggest his decision to leave was justified.