“He hardly played a game” - Fabregas names surprise ex-Premier League star as leader behind-the-scenes for Spain’s golden generation

Cesc Fabregas was a member of Spain
Cesc Fabregas was a member of Spain's golden generation (Getty Images)

Cesc Fabregas has named former Premier League shot-stopper Pepe Reina as a leader behind the scenes for Spain's golden generation. The Arsenal icon stressed that the goalkeeper was important for the morale and togetherness of the group despite not seeing much playing time.

When talks about Spain's golden generation come up, players like Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, David Villa and Sergio Ramos usually get the credit. However, Cesc Fabregas, who was part of the group at the time, has detailed how influential a player like Reina was to the group.

“Someone like Pepe Reina, probably in those three competitions, he hardly played a game but he was so important for us behind the scenes," the Spaniard said on Rio Ferdinand's YouTube channel "FIVE". [He was] being one of us, giving us the energy, celebrating and sprinting to be the first one to be there [after a goal].
“You need players like this. In Spain, someone said ‘This guy, he didn’t even play and he celebrated like he won.’ But for us, he was so important for the morale, for the togetherness.

Fabregas also shed light on the fantastic attitude of Reina and other Spain players who struggled to get game time during that period.

“Sometimes you lose and they are there to support you," he continued. "They train like animals. In these tournaments, it’s always about the 11-12 players who start every game and the rest [of them], they need to keep the standards high in training every day.
"It’s not easy when you come from Arsenal, where you play every game, and then you go to the national team and you don’t play. You are the star there, but not here and it’s difficult for your ego to keep going. We had that humility and I believe this was our success,” the Arsenal icon added.

Spain's golden generation took off towards the late 2000s and declined after the early 2010s. The group featured several high-caliber players and claimed the 2010 FIFA World Cup as well as the 2008 and 2012 European Championships.

Cesc Fabregas and Pepe Reina's Spain careers in numbers

During his time with the national team, Fabregas earned an impressive 110 caps, recording 15 goals. He won three trophies with the group, namely the World Cup and two European Championships.

Pepe Reina, unfortunately, couldn't record high numbers amid competition with Iker Casillas and Victor Valdes for the goalkeeper's spot. He got just 36 caps but maintained a healthy and important position within the group.

The former Liverpool star is currently a Villarreal player at the age of 41 but is expected to become a free agent on July 1 after his contract runs out. Fabregas, meanwhile, has called time on his football career after retiring from the sport on July 1, 2023.

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Edited by Ritwik Kumar
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