Cesc Fabregas bid farewell after 501 appearances in English football when he was substituted in the closing minutes of Chelsea’s victory against Nottingham Forest.
Fabregas was captain and missed a first-half penalty but his team ran out as comfortable 2-0 winners thanks to two goals from Alvaro Morata.
The 31-year-old Spain international left the pitch in tears as he was replaced by N’Golo Kante, milked the applause and embraced manager Maurizio Sarri.
500 games in English football, what an achievement.
— The Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) January 5, 2019
Fabregas has appeared in 198 games for Chelsea in all competitions and scored 22 goals since signing from Barcelona in 2014.
The next stop for the former Arsenal midfielder is expected to be Monaco.
‘Time flies,’ said Fabregas. ‘It feels like last week that I started playing professionally and now it’s more than 15 years. It goes so fast and you have to be ready every three days, for the criticism with everyone saying how good you are and the ups and downs.
‘It feels like growing older it never goes away it is technique. Physicality goes away. Technicality stays with you.’
On his penalty miss, he added: ‘I saw the ‘keeper going down in the middle of the run and I thought I had it. It was unfortunate. The day I got 100 caps for Spain I also missed a penalty, so it was destiny.’
Teammate Ross Barkley said: ‘Playing with him has been a pleasure,’ said Ross Barkley. ‘He is going to go down as one of the best midfielders ever.’
Chelsea coach Carlo Cudicini said: ‘Cesc is player that is unique in his position, with unbelievable vision and awareness of where his team-mates on the pitch.
‘He is one of the few with ability to give this ball in the defensive line, so precise. His timing. He is one of a kind player that can do that.
‘He has been fantastic for the team he played before us and the contribution that he is giving to this club and this team has been amazing. Cesc is a top, top player.’
One setback for Chelsea came when Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s back trouble flared up in the first half and may rule him out of action until a solution can be found.
‘We are very sorry for the kid,’ said Cudicini. ‘It is a pity. It is something that’s affecting him, something we need to look at and resolve. It has been going on for a while and maybe he might have to stop for a bit to resolve. It is a pity because he is doing very well.’