Few players understand creativity quite like Spain international Cesc Fabregas.
His 111 assists in the Premier League is second on the all-time standings, behind only Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs' 162, but while the Welshman had 22 seasons in the division, Fabregas had just 13 during his time with both Arsenal and Chelsea.
35 of those assists came with the Blues, and since Fabregas' departure in January 2019, Chelsea hadn't really found anybody to replace the loss of creativity. Well, that was until this summer, when Hakim Ziyech arrived at Stamford Bridge.
Much was expected of the Moroccan when the deal to sign him was announced back in February, but that didn't stop his performance in November's 4-1 win over Sheffield United - in which he created an incredible six chances - from coming as something of a surprise.
"He's a very good player," Fabregas tells 90min during an interview with Red Bull. "He has this vision that you need in a top team like Chelsea, who want to win and be champions.
"You could see that they were lacking ideas last season and maybe at the beginning of this season, but with Ziyech, you can see that he has this last pass. It's not only that he sees it, it's that he makes it right, at the right time. That's the decision-making that we talk about nowadays.
"Why are coaches so tactical? Because they see the decision-making of the players is not that good, so they always need to teach them what to do. Before, I believe that coaches were not as on top of the players as they are now, they felt that maybe there was not as much need because the players already saw it themselves, but I believe that Ziyech is one of these players."
The former Spain international continued: "He makes things happen, things that when the defenders don't expect. They don't expect the pass, you catch them sleeping and you have someone like Timo Werner making great runs in behind. I think this is where Chelsea could be so powerful this year."
Fabregas and Ziyech aren't carbon copies of each other - one's a central midfielder and the other is a winger with an eye for goal - but the similarities between the two are clear. Even their nicknames come from the same drawer - Chelsea fans will tell you about Fabregas' 'magic ha't, and Ajax fans know Ziyech as 'The Wizard'.
With Fabregas, he is quick to credit the coaches who helped mould him into the player he became, but the 33-year-old admits that a lot of his passing instincts seemed to develop naturally.
"I believe that I had a great mentor in Arsene Wenger, but I also believe that it's something I was developing naturally at Barcelona's academy," he says of his own abilities as a playmaker. "I had great coaches, no doubt about it, but I always felt that I was doing these types of passes without anyone else doing it. I always felt that I was doing it when I felt it was the right thing, and it was working.
"From that, you get confidence and you grow up into it, and the more you do it, the better you get. That's how it works in every aspect in life, not just in passing or football.
"If you keep working and keep testing yourself and making it happen and especially making it right - if you keep doing it and it's wrong, it's more difficult for your brain - if you keep doing it and it's good and you get confidence from it, that's when you become very good at it."
One major difference between Ziyech and Fabregas is trickery. While the current Chelsea man has a penchant for flair, that has never been Fabregas' game. He believes a quick mind is more dangerous than any quick feet.
With that in mind, it came as somewhat of a surprise to see Fabregas selected as a judge for the best trick at the upcoming Red Bull Street Style 2020 World Finals, but the midfielder insists he's more qualified than he may appear on paper.
"You're not the first one to tell me this!" he laughs when asked about his less-than-rich history of tricks. "You're right, my game is not based on trickery at all. It's more about passing and moving, but it is about being creative, and these guys are so talented and so creative.
"Obviously it's not the kind of football that I'm used to, but it's something that they have to spend so many hours trying and trying and trying. At the end of the day, it's the same with us trying free kicks, long balls, different types of passes. It's still training and developing your talents, and you have to be creative in that aspect.
"Sometimes they do it by themselves and that's more impressive. We have coaches, many people who advise us how to do things. I don't know if that's the case with a lot of them, but a lot do it by themselves by training, by watching, by learning from others. It's very impressive and it's great to see."
You can watch the Bull Street Style World Final this Saturday on redbullstreetstyle.com
Source : 90min