Cesc Fabregas has warned Chelsea to beware his old friend Andres Iniesta’s timeless “intelligence” ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Barcelona.
Fabregas insisted he cannot call Iniesta his idol as just three years separate the two Spain midfielders, who progressed together through Barcelona’s academy.
Instead Fabregas admitted admiring Barca greats Pep Guardiola and Luis Figo from afar as a youngster dreaming of making his way up the Nou Camp ladder.
Despite his enduring friendship with Iniesta, Fabregas insisted he will harbour no split loyalties when facing his home town club at Stamford Bridge in the last-16 first leg encounter.
“He’s still good; for this type of player age doesn’t really matter,” said Fabregas, of the 123-cap, 33-year-old Iniesta.
“Once you have a talent, once you have the class that he and so many other ‘big’ players have, they can play until their late 30s.
“Physically, it’s important, obviously because the game nowadays depends a lot on that. But when you have the quality, when you have the intelligence, it can sometimes compensate.”
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Asked if Iniesta was his idol growing up, the 30-year-old Fabregas replied: “You’re making him very old! He’s only three years older than me.
“We played with the Spain under-21s together. We’ve played together from when I was 18 years old.
“I never saw him as an ‘idol’ because we always played together. I saw him as a team-mate.
“A person obviously that I admire, but in a different way from an idol I looked up to when I was young.
“I used to look up to Guardiola, because he was playing in my position; I used to love Luis Figo when he was at Barcelona. These two were probably the ones I looked up to most when I was little.
“But this generation of Spanish players, and not only Spanish players, in Barcelona has been fantastic.”
Fabregas broke a bone in his leg scoring an equalising penalty when Arsenal drew 2-2 with Barcelona in the Champions League in March 2010.
The accomplished midfielder insisted he has long since made peace with taking on his boyhood club and the side he has always supported.
Asked if he will be emotional on Tuesday, he replied: “It depends how you see it. Of course it’s my home town, it’s the club I supported for all my life.
“So in that way, yes. But once you step into the pitch, that just goes away. I did it with Arsenal.
“It’s not something I try, it just happens naturally. You want to do well for your club and that’s it.”