LONDON • Cesc Fabregas inspired Chelsea to a 3-0 win over Middlesbrough on Monday and then revealed that he ignored advice to leave the club.
The midfielder made only his 11th Premier League start of the season but he was clearly the London football club's match-winner, inventively creating goals for Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic either side of half-time at Stamford Bridge.
Marcos Alonso was the other scorer for the Blues.
After the match, the Spaniard said that he was advised to leave Chelsea after struggling to establish himself under manager Antonio Conte but that he decided to stay and prove he could meet the manager's demands.
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"It's been a different year for me," Fabregas said. "I'm used to playing every single game for every club I've been at, but I feel I've matured a lot this year.
"It's not easy what happened to me. Many people told me I'm not the type of player for Antonio, told me I should leave, but I like challenges and this was a big challenge.
Ten assists again
Cesc Fabregas became the first player to register at least 10 assists in six English Premier League seasons when he set up Nemanja Matic's goal on Monday. He would have had another but for Fabio da Silva's slight deflection on his pass to Diego Costa for Chelsea's opening goal.
ALL-TIME PREMIER LEAGUE ASSISTS LEADERS
1. Ryan Giggs: 162
2. Cesc Fabregas: 105
3. Frank Lampard: 102
4. Wayne Rooney: 101
5. Dennis Bergkamp: 94
"Obviously I haven't played every single game but I feel the quality of my minutes whenever I've been on the pitch has been fantastic, so maybe my contribution has been even bigger than when I've played more in other seasons.
"I've had to have patience and accept that sometimes these things happen. Play for the team. A different season for me but I'm proud of what I've done."
Fabregas, who turned 30 last week, plans to resolve his future at the end of the season and has been linked with a move to AC Milan.
Conte praised Fabregas for forcing his way back into the starting XI, which he said epitomised the effort that his squad have put in this season.
"Cesc is one of the best examples for our season because, this season, Cesc didn't start a lot," the Italian said. "Then, through hard work, he improved a lot. And now he's playing in every game. This development of Cesc is our development. Now Cesc is showing himself to be a fantastic player."
Fabregas urged Chelsea to wrap up the Premier League title on Friday with a win over West Bromwich Albion.
"We are close and in football nothing is done until it's done. Hopefully on Friday we can have the title," he said. "It would be amazing to do it on Friday - the quicker the better."
THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE