By Chris Harris

So, what were you up to at the age of 19? Playing in the most prestigious game in club football against the team you supported as a boy? No, me neither.

For most teenagers, it's a fantasy scenario. For Cesc Fabregas, it's a reality. Less than three years after leaving Barcelona for Arsenal, he will line up against his former club in Paris at the Champions League Final.

Fabregas' meteoric rise scaled new heights this week when he was named in Spain's World Cup squad. But where would he be now if he hadn't taken the bold decision to leave his home country? Realistically, Fabregas would still be battling for recognition at the Nou Camp. As he explains, it was a lack of opportunity which hastened his departure.

"It is always difficult to make a 16-year-old train with the first team, maybe just Arsène Wenger does that," says Fabregas. "I wasn't asking to train with the first team, I just wanted to be pushed me up one year or two years to make me mature a bit more and make me play against older people. So I thought the best decision was to come to Arsenal.

"No one really did that before because everyone was scared of leaving Barcelona, one of the best teams in the world. Everyone was saying 'there is nothing better than this' but I wasn't happy just winning 20-0 every week in the youth team like we did, I wanted to work hard and I wasn't doing that.

"It is always difficult to leave a great team but I knew I was going to a great team as well. When I came here I talked to Arsène Wenger and Mr Dein and that was important because it is not usual for them to talk to a 16-year-old. I saw everything and I really liked London so I made my decision.

"My mum and dad always gave me the best advice for me and it definitely meant coming to Arsenal for my future and not only as a footballer but also as a person.

"I spent six years there and learnt a lot, I made a lot of friends, not just my team-mates but coaches. It will be really special for me on Wednesday but I know exactly what I want and that is to win the trophy for Arsenal."

As a fan, Fabregas knows his Barcelona history. He knows one European Cup is a poor return for one of the sport's most famous names and believes that, as favourites, there is more pressure on his former club than his current employers.

"It's true that the pressure is very high, they have been trying to win it since 1992," says Fabregas. "They have lost three Finals so the pressure is high but also for us because it's our first time. If we could make one win out of one Final it would be the best thing.

"I was talking to [Barcelona players] Iniesta, Puyol and Xavi when we met last Monday in the national team and they know it's going to be difficult. When they talk about our players they say they are fantastic. It's a funny situation, when I am in England everyone says 'good luck', then I go to Barcelona they say 'don't play well, please' so it is strange for me.

"Are they beatable? Of course, otherwise there is no point playing. They are a great team and they have shown that in the last two years. But we've gone through against Madrid and Juventus when we were not the favourites.

"I think it is going to be different because they play with three in midfield, not like Madrid and Juventus, so perhaps we will have to defend a bit more and try to create spaces when we have the ball. But I think we both play the same kind of football and we will see a good game."

28/1 - Champions League Final - Henry to score a hat-trick

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
Chris Harris 16 May 2006