(Reuters) - Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas worked hard to win back his place in the starting line-up last season and has been rewarded for his excellent attitude, his manager Antonio Conte said.
Ahead of Tuesday's final Champions League group match against Atletico Madrid, Fabregas has played more than any other Chelsea midfielder this season in terms of minutes on the pitch.
At the same stage last season, Fabregas had started just four games in all competitions.
"I think Cesc at the start of the last season did not play a lot, but I was very happy because through work he tried to change my mind and it happened," Conte told reporters.
Conte said that in the early part of last season he started nearly every game with N'Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic in central midfield but Fabregas played many games in the run-in.
"I think he was very important for us to win the title last season," Conte said. "In this season he has continued to work very hard and he's shown me great commitment, great behaviour."
Fabregas turned 30 in May and Conte is backing the former Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder to perform at the highest level for at least five more years.
"He is still young for sure. When you are 30 years old, you have at least five more years to play football at this level," the Italian manager added.
"You must have great desire and great will to play at this level because it is not simple. He’s a winner in his mind, in his mentality, for this reason he is very strong."
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)