Cesc Fabregas vs Luka Modric: Assessing who was better in their prime

Matt O'Connor-Simpson
Fabregas was incredible at Arsenal
Fabregas was incredible at Arsenal

The North London Derby is always a blood and thunder, physical contest, filled with flying tackles, stray elbows and beefy headers.

Amid this madness is occasional beauty, and no two players embody this more aptly than Luka Modric and Cesc Fabregas. The pair are two of the finest midfielders of their generation, complete technicians capable of taking control of games like so few of their peers.

Modric was not at Spurs for that long but he made a huge impact and has since established himself as one of the best players of the 2010s. Fabregas, meanwhile, broke Arsenal hearts when he left for Barcelona - and then again when he signed for Chelsea - but during his time with the Gunners few Premier League midfielders could hold a candle to him.

The question is: who should be considered the superior player? We took a look at each man's career to find out.

Premier League record

Cesc Fabregas, Cesar Azpilicueta
Fabregas won two Premier League titles / Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

In terms of impact in the Best League in the World™ there is only one winner - Fabregas.

The Spaniard burst onto the scene as a teenager and would go on to make 350 appearances for Arsenal and Chelsea before ending his Premier League career in 2019. During his time in England he won a pair of league titles while at Stamford Bridge and also found himself in two PFA Team of the Years. He also scooped the Young Player of the Year award in 2008.

Modric's Premier League career was not bad after some early struggles - he made 127 appearances across four seasons - but it does not come close to comparing to Fabregas. Perhaps things would have been different if he'd stuck around for longer.

Career honours

UEFA Champions League final - "Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid"
Modric is used to celebrating Champions League triumphs / VI-Images/Getty Images

Our second category is far more open to debate. Across their careers both Fabregas and Modric have earned reputations as serial winners.

Since leaving for Real Madrid in 2012 the latter has only ever experienced one trophyless season. Modric has clinched a pair of La Liga titles, a Copa del Rey, three UEFA Super Cups and three Club World Cups. However, the highlight has been a staggering four Champions Leagues - an honour that has always eluded Fabregas.

Although the Spaniard has a trophy cabinet that most players would die four - he has won the World Cup and the Euros twice don't forget - Modric's quartet of European Cups means he just shades this category.

Individual honours

Luka Modric
Modric is a Ballon d'Or winner / Denis Doyle/Getty Images

There is a debate to be had over how relevant individual awards are in football, but there can be no arguments over which player wins this category.

Modric has collected an incredible amount of personal gongs during his career, none more impressive than the Ballon d'Or he scooped in 2018. That same year he was awarded the top men's prizes from World Soccer and FIFA, also scooping the World Cup Golden Ball after leading Croatia to an unlikely final.

Although 2018 was the pinnacle of recognition for Modric, he has rarely been far away from the individual awards at the end of the season.

Fabregas' CV is not quite as impressive, though he was named Golden Boy in 2006 and made it into the Euro 2012 team of the tournament.

Goals and assists

Cesc Fabregas
Fabregas was profilic for Arsenal / Phil Cole/Getty Images

As he now plies his trade as a languid, deep-lying playmaker in France most of the time, it is easy to forget just how prolific Fabregas was at the start of his career.

Some of his stats - 20 Premier League assists in the 2007/2008 and 15 goals and 15 assists in 2009/10 - are pretty mind boggling, and although his numbers declined markedly as his career progressed, this is still a level Modric has never come close to reaching.

His time in Croatia aside, the midfielder's highest seasonal scoring tally in the league came last season (5) and his assist numbers are surprisingly low too. These differences are, of course, down to a variation in role, but it does not change the fact that Fabregas is the winner of this category.


Luka Modric is the winner
Luka Modric is the winner

So with the two players locked level after our analysis, we decided to throw the decision out to all you football fans out there.

And now the results are in...

Your winner, with 52% of the fan votes (yes, it was a close one) is prime Luka Modric.