Not only did the former captain admit he was unable to tell Wenger how he felt as emotion got the better of him when he bade farewell, he also departed with Arsenal being given first refusal should he ever leave Barcelona.
For all the recriminations that have surrounded this deal, bridges were not burned. Should Fábregas ever leave Barcelona Arsenal will have first refusal on their former captain. Fábregas departs calling Wenger the best man he has met in football and insisting that Jack Wilshere, whom he tipped as a future England captain, and Aaron Ramsey have the talent to take control of Arsenal's midfield.
The saga came to an end when Fábregas signed a five-year deal at Barcelona. The European champions will pay Arsenal two instalments of €14.5m (£12.8m) before the end of September, plus a further €5m in incentives, payable if they win the league twice or the Champions League once in the next three years. Arsenal will also receive €1m a year after Fábregas agreed to lower his salary from €4m to €3m to facilitate the deal. Wenger called it "an affair of the heart".
Fábregas described the move as a childhood dream but said there were "mixed emotions". He admitted the frustration of winning nothing in the past six years weighed heavily and that he had been unable to articulate his gratitude at his last meeting with Wenger without crying.
"I spoke to [Wenger] on Friday to say goodbye and got very emotional because he has been like a father figure," Fábregas said. "I couldn't even talk when I wanted to say how grateful I was for what he has done to me, so I had to send a message afterwards saying thanks for everything. If it was not for him I would not be here today to live my dream. I will never have enough words to say how grateful I am. I went from being a boy to a man and they gave me absolutely everything in football.
"At Arsenal, there were finals and semi-finals but we always lacked that little extra push to win something. That was hard to take. It was not that we didn't win titles, it was that we kept going through the same routine, the same things happening to us and us messing up. I gave everything for Arsenal but it didn't show in the [trophy] cabinet because I only won one FA Cup. That is the biggest regret I will have in my career – not to be able to lift a trophy as Arsenal captain."
Fábregas said he was sad at the way he left the Emirates. "I will have time to talk about [my departure]. I am sure I will do an interview especially for them [the Arsenal fans]," he said. "I am sorry I couldn't say anything for the last two and half months, Arsenal would not allow me to talk to them, I was disappointed and upset about that but it had to be like that. I was very, very sad to be leaving. I spent a third of my life there – eight years."
Despite those frustrations, he said of Wenger: "If Arsenal want to keep being the club they have been, they must always remain under his control because he is the best and everyone respects him. He will always be the best person I have met in football. [And] I am sure that they will be a strong team again – they are one of the biggest teams in the world. They will be OK without me as they were without Vieira, without Henry, without Bergkamp."
"There is not even a question [over whether or not Arsenal's midfield is in good hands]. I have seen them play for years, both Aaron and Jack. Jack will be the England captain in the next two or three years, there is no doubt. You don't have to be a magician to see that. He has the passing game and he will be an even better player in the future. There is not even a question in my mind about that. As for Aaron, his engine is unbelievable, his final ball will get better and he will be the next big star at Arsenal. They are winners and they will be amazing for the club for sure."
Wenger admitted he and Arsenal were always fighting a losing battle to keep Fábregas from Barcelona this summer, as he suggested that the European champions had got the midfielder at a "reduced fee". Arsenal value the deal at £40m, which factors in a £4m loyalty payment the player has waived. Also included in the package are performance and success-related add-ons while Arsenal have a 50% sell-on clause. Barcelona have waived any options or sell-on clauses in relation to Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin, the young players who moved from the Camp Nou to Arsenal earlier in the summer.
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