Cesc Fabregas insisted that he will always harbour a "very positive memory" of Jose Mourinho from their time together at Chelsea, despite admitting that he viewed the Portuguese coach as "my enemy" when he played for Arsenal and Barcelona.
Mourinho was sacked by Chelsea for the second time in December 2015, having presided over a disastrous Premier League title defence and what technical director Michael Emenalo described as "palpable discord" between the management and players.
Fabregas was forced to publicly deny suggestions that he was one of several high-profile players who worked to undermine Mourinho during his final weeks at Stamford Bridge, and the Spain international reiterated that he remains on good terms with the Manchester United manager.
"With him, I went through several phases," Fabregas said of Mourinho in the print edition of Vanity Fair magazine.
"He was my enemy when he coached [Real] Madrid and Chelsea while I was at Arsenal. It's not that we didn't get on, but we competed and I wanted to beat him. I went on to play for him at Chelsea and go with him until death.
"That's football nowadays. I learned a lot from him, I have a very positive memory of him. Forever."
Fabregas overcame the criticism he faced in the wake of Mourinho's dismissal to re-establish himself as a fan favourite at Chelsea last season, contributing five goals and 12 assists to their run to the Premier League title despite losing his regular starting spot under Antonio Conte.
"I have found absolute happiness at Chelsea," he added. "My family is delighted, totally adapted to life in London, the fans love me... I'm just too happy to change. I only miss my family and friends from Barcelona."
Fabregas has started six of Chelsea's eight Premier League matches so far this season and is expected to keep his place against Watford on Saturday, with N'Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater both sidelined through injury and Tiemoue Bakayoko battling a groin problem.
ESPN FC's La Liga correspondent Adriana Garcia contributed to this report.