By Richard Clarke

It was the perceptive passing of Cesc Fabregas that first caught Arsène Wenger's eye.

Back in 2003, the Arsenal manager travelled to Finland for the Under-17s World Cup in order to run the rule over, among others, a blossoming young midfielder in the Spanish team.

Fabregas had Barcelona in his blood and was rising rapidly through the ranks at the Nou Camp alongside the likes of Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique.

Spain did not lift the trophy that year but Fabregas came home with the individual honours. He won the Golden Boot as top scorer and was voted Player of the Tournament for his overall contribution.

Twelve days after losing to Brazil in the Final, the 16-year-old signed for Arsenal.

Ahead of Barcelona's visit to Emirates Stadium for the Champions League Quarter-Final first leg, Wenger recalled that first impression.

"I couldn't go to watch a youth team game at Barcelona because they would not have welcomed me," he said before the weekend trip to Birmingham. "So I could only watch him in the Under-17 national team.

"You could see straight away that his vision of the game was exceptional. He was physically a little bit weak at the time but he could score goals.

"I do not know if there were other teams [in for him]. We were just first and players want to join us because they feel they have a chance [to play]. Many young players want to join us because of that."

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29 Mar 2010