Cesc Fabregas has warned his Chelsea team-mates to not underestimate Barcelona’s ageing midfielder Andres Iniesta.
Fabregas, 30 – who played alongside Iniesta, 33, at Barcelona and for the Spanish national team – says age does not matter for a player who has always relied on his intelligence rather than his physicality.
Iniesta is expected to start in Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 first leg at Stamford Bridge because Barcelona’s January signing Philippe Coutinho is cup-tied having already represented Liverpool in the competition.
Fabregas believes Iniesta’s quality on the ball is enough for him to continue playing a the very highest level into his late 30s.
“He’s still good; for this type of player age doesn’t really matter,” Fabregas said.
“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.”
Asked if the Barcelona midfielder was his idol growing up, 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.”
Fabregas cited Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and former Portugal winger Luis Figo as his Barcelona footballing heroes growing up.
He continued: “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.”