Red Bull Street Style has a new star judge, you might know him already
World Cup winner Cesc Fàbregas reveals why Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr would battle it out for street style glory among the pros, his most influential manager and his top tips for the contestants.
When the World Final of Red Bull Street Style gets underway on November 14, a new star judge will be watching intently. For the 2020 virtual edition, which takes place online, Monaco midfielder Cesc Fàbregas will be on hand to pick out the male and female winners of the newly created 'Best Trick' award.
We caught up with the former Barcelona, Arsenal and Chelsea player to quiz him on all things Red Bull Street Style and his life in football.
1. He always had a ball at his feet
Fàbregas wanted to play football for as long as he can remember. The impressionable youngster was obsessed with the game from the outset according to his family.
He said: “My mum tells me that when I was very little I was always with a football, whether in the house, or down the park with my dad or on the street. I have the memory of my first-ever game when I was nearly five, because my parents filmed it. Basically, I only liked football!”
2. Football still gets him off his feet
Despite having played more than 100 games for his country and hundreds more at club level for Arsenal, Chelsea, Barcelona and Monaco, the 33-year-old still lives for the game in its every facet.
He admitted: “I watch football all the time. I clap when I see an amazing goal. I appreciate it and never get bored of it.”
3. As a Red Bull Street Style judge, he wants creativity
Red Bull Street Style has had many star judges in the past, with the likes of Nani, Pável Pardo, Gary Neville, Fabio Cannavaro, Edgar Davids and Roberto Carlos all being wowed by the skills on show.
For Fàbregas, his judging criteria will be defined by two major points: “I think I will be looking forward to the most spectacular and the most creative. Creativity for me is something that I look into a lot and one of the things that I will be looking for.
“I have always admired [tricks] from the outside without analysing very well how they do it or what they are trying to achieve. I have been studying a little though since I know I will be a judge!”
I think I will be looking forward to the most spectacular and the most creative
4. He reveals the team-mates with the greatest skills in their locker
Fàbregas’s team-mates past and present have read like a who’s who of football’s finest, so the Spaniard is well placed to know which of the professionals would most easily transfer their skillset to this particularly format.
He revealed: “At Monaco, Sofiane Diop has good tricks in his locker and elsewhere Neymar Jr is probably the best I've seen. Lionel Messi has got something as well! When we were little, we had a competition between teams and from each team you had to have a member of the squad that represented you to do tricks, and Leo was the one for us and I was impressed by his type of skills.
“When he plays football, he does amazing things but he is quite simple. He plays for the most effective thing but, in fact, he can do all these tricks as well and it is impressive.”
5. Fàbregas is still working on his own skills
Fàbregas may have been part of winning teams in everything from the World Cup to the European Championship, Premier League, La Liga and the FA Cup, but he's quick to admit that he is far better placed as a Red Bull Street Style judge than a competitor.
Of his own repertoire, he said: “The best that I can do is around the world, which everyone can do. There's one where you do the around the world, then pass it to the other leg and you do another type of around the world. That's one of my favourites and I'd love to do that.
“When they go on the floor and they catch the ball with their knees and then they turn around with this trickery, for me, it's just impossible.”
6. Arsène Wenger took him to the next level
Frustrated by a lack of opportunities at Barcelona, Fàbregas took a huge gamble and moved to the Premier League with Arsenal where he made his senior debut aged just 16 years and 177 days.
He'd go on to become a club legend and credits that to Wenger. “I have been privileged to have some of the best coaches in history, so it's very difficult for me to choose one, but to take me to the next level and to make me a professional player was Arsène Wenger for what he believed in me at the beginning.
“At 16 years old, it's not really normal to let a young kid at such a young age play with great players, World Cup champions and Premier League legends. He allowed me this opportunity and every year I felt I was getting better and better and better thanks to him. So, if I have to pick one that took me to the next level, it is probably him.”
7. Mourinho and Guardiola are like for like
Wenger included, Fàbregas has played under some of the world’s most successful and renowned coaches, including the likes of Pep Guardiola, José Mourinho and Antonio Conte.
And he dispels a myth over their supposedly very different approaches to the game. “At the end of the day, they're similar because they're very competitive,” he said. Everyone talks about (Pep) Guardiola and Mourinho saying, ‘one is like this and one is like that’.
“I've been coached by both of them and I will tell you that they are so similar in the way they work and the way they want to win. They are obsessed by just doing their work and doing their own thing, always improving and always trying to win.”
8. The Champions League is open in 2020
Trying to predict a winner of Europe’s premier competition, the Champions League, is nigh-on impossible, according to Fàbregas, who points to Bayern Munich’s recent triumph as an example.
“Bayern Munich were fifth in the Bundesliga back in January and not doing very well. Then, after confinement, they came back superhuman,” he added. “They were monsters on the pitch and physically much better than the rest.
“I had so much fun watching Red Bull Leipzig playing against Atletico Madrid. I was fascinated by that. I love it because they're young players and they know what they are doing. They play quick football with quick transitions.”
9. Monaco is a whole new experience
Fàbregas’s own career has gone through a complete role reversal. For a long time, he was the young star in an experienced team. Now, 16 years since his senior debut for Arsenal, it's the complete opposite at current club Monaco.
He explained his reasons for joining: “The owner wanted an experienced player to teach the younger players and it's something that I never had to do because I was always the younger one, especially at Arsenal.
“I've been on the opposite side and I know what the great players did for me. Now I try to give back a little bit to the young players here at Monaco who are willing to learn. They ask a lot and they always try to improve and want to do things well.”
10. His message to the Red Bull Street Style competitors is clear
With that aforementioned experience, his advice is much the same for Red Bull Street Style competitors as he would give to his own up-and-coming Monaco team-mates.
Passing on his top tips pre-event, he said: “Every sport is different, but there are certain things that relate to all of us – the discipline, dedication and determination to always get better.
“For them, it will always be new tricks and new moves that they can do and they can achieve and, sometimes, it's not easy because they spend so many hours and it can be frustrating. They also need to treat their body and their mind like a proper professional.”