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Fabregas & Milner – Ideal professional footballers?



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In an era of football mega-stars and celebrity lifestyles Cesc Fabregas is showing himself to be a truly world class footballer.

The talent of a man born in Vilassar de Mar, Barcelona and raised through FC Barcelona’s legendary football academy has been quite rightly lauded since Arsene Wenger handed him his first team debut in a League Cup game against Rotherham in 2003.

European Championship and World Cup winner’s medals achieved as part of Spain’s astounding generation of technically gifted pass-masters underline the capabilities of a player who became Arsenal’s captain at the age of just 21.

Whilst Fabregas will no doubt forever remember the summer of 2010 as a glorious national fiesta following victory in South Africa, it also generated severe turbulence that destabilized his club career.

The cultured creative force has only one FA Cup triumph at club level to complement his success on the international circuit and his innate aspiration to win more silverware combined with a desire to return to his Catalonia homeland lead to one of the summer’s most drawn out transfer sagas.

The midfield matador made no secret of his preference to rejoin his former club in time for the 2010-2011 season and Barcelona were equally as keen to acquire his services. Barca players were particularly outspoken in the media as they sought to coerce Fabregas to the Camp Nou and captain Carles Puyol even forced the Arsenal star to don a Barcelona shirt during Spain’s World Cup celebrations.

Ultimately, an inability to find a financial common ground between Fabregas’ current and prospective employers scuppered hopes of completing the deal this year and he has been forced to settle for another season in North London.

Questions regarding Fabregas’ commitment to ending Arsenal’s six year trophy drought were inevitable following the announcement that the Gunners had fended off the Spanish champion’s advances. The way he has started the season has dispelled any such concerns and has confirmed to all that this young man is an absolute professional.

Since he returned to Premier League action in Arsenal’s second game of the season he has steadily begun to assert his trademark authority in the center ground and in the last week we have been treated to two performances of the highest caliber to emphasize his exceptional character.

Against Bolton and Braga he was his usual imperious self. As if to showcase the creativity and flair that encapsulated his national side’s summer conquest he has created chances and scored goals with consummate ease. In doing so he has confirmed his commitment to the red and white jersey for as long as he is asked to wear it.

Similar praise can be leveled at James Milner. Although the England star had a relatively understated World Cup in comparison to the Spaniard, he also found himself embroiled in an elongated switch between clubs.

Unlike Fabregas, Milner achieved his goal and secured a move from Aston Villa to Manchester City. However, he was equally as eager to show his professionalism when he took to the field on the opening day of the Premier League season whilst still on Villa’s books.

Just prior to completion of the much anticipated move, Milner produced an inspired display against West Ham and capped his performance with a goal before leaving the field to a standing ovation from the same fans that had given him a tepid reception as he entered the arena.

This level of professionalism from both men should provide a refreshing boost for football fans who may feel somewhat disillusioned by the appearance of a number of Premier League stars on the front pages of the Sunday newspapers in recent months for “off-field” issues.

Peter Crouch, John Terry and Wayne Rooney have all been under the microscope and plastered across the tabloids this year for supposed misdemeanors.

Both Rooney and Terry’s focus on footballing matters has been severely questioned as both struggled for form in the aftermath of their respective incidents. In particular, Rooney’s World Cup performance has come under much criticism with speculation rife that his personal escapades directly influenced his South African contribution.

England squad members are not the only top flight performers to express a lack of professional discipline recently. In a less high profile example, Asmir Begovic, Stoke City’s reserve stopper, occupied a few column inches on the inside of the August sport’s pages.

The big goalie was courting a move to Chelsea when reports surfaced suggesting the player refused to participate in Stoke’s Carling Cup game versus Shrewsbury because he was not in the right frame of mind. Whilst the player was keen to profess a misunderstanding lead to his omission, it was evident the player’s prime focus was not on producing his best work for the club paying his wages.

Cesc Fabregas’ example is a shining light for all young footballers to follow. The man has a devilish will to win and it is energizing to see someone who appreciates his privileged position and simply wants to become the best in his sport.

Milner too is someone for youngsters to learn from. He continually improves year after year as a result of being one of the most devoted players in the game. His abstinence from alcohol is indicative of his commitment to his craft.

Football today is more of a business than at any other time in history and in any business professionalism is one of the fundamental building blocks. With vast sums of money now dominating the game it is heartening to watch players who demonstrate the level of dedication their wages should command.

True football fans would rather read about sporting greatness than showbiz gossip or player revolt and fortunately for the game there are players who understand just how key professionalism is in the pursuit of greatness.

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James Carruthers is a football writer and an expert on the English game. Having studied the sport for over a decade, James dedicates his knowledge of the beautiful game and his background in sport science to analysing and summarising the key incidents defining modern-day football.