By Chris Harris
This time last year the football world was sitting up and taking notice of Cesc Fabregas.
The young Spaniard had already repaid Arsène Wenger's faith in him with a string of commanding performances in the Premiership. When Fabregas produced midfield masterclasses against Real Madrid and Juventus in the Champions League, those murmurs of approval reached fever pitch.
Luis Aragones, the Spain coach, had already selected Fabregas for a national team get-together in December 2005 and, a few days after watching the former Barcelona prospect light up the Bernabeu Stadium, he named the teenager in his squad for a friendly against the Ivory Coast.
Fifteen appearances and a World Cup later, Fabregas is a fixture in the Spain set-up. Before leaving England for his country's Euro 2008 qualifiers against Denmark and Iceland, the 19-year-old told Arsenal.com why he now feels part of the Spain 'family'.
"Since the coach took me it has been 15 games," said Fabregas. "He has picked me in every game since then and I have played in every one of them even if it's just one minute, 10 minutes or from the start.
"That is really important for me because it shows he has a lot of confidence in me. I will always thank him for what he has done because the national team is a big, big step forward and he gave the opportunity to me to play in the World Cup at just 19-years-old and you can get a lot of experience from that."
To some extent Fabregas has been a victim of his own success. His stellar first season in the Premiership earned him international recognition and a place in Spain's World Cup squad. Now he is arguably the heartbeat of the Arsenal side and rarely misses a game for his club.
After two years of almost non-stop football, Fabregas is understandably looking forward to a well-earned rest this summer. In fact, he believes a spot of recuperation will spur him on to greater things next season.
"Yes, I am looking forward to this summer and I count the days," said Fabregas. "Although the thing is that when we finish we have international games in June and that breaks up my plans a little bit.
"Sometimes I do think I need one summer just to rest. I remember when I was 16 turning 17, I had seven weeks rest and I came back in pre-season refreshed and ready to go. That's what made the difference because I was a reserve player and I came into the first team in this period and because I had rested I had a lot of energy and power.
"You do need that rest when you are so young and you start playing so many games under a lot of pressure, especially in midfield where you have to run a lot and make a lot of tackles.
"Of course I like to play football and I will never say 'no' when I am asked to play because I love it so much. If I said 'no' I would feel really bad in myself. But after six or seven years of this you can get injuries so you have to be professional and take care of yourself."
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