Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta is getting dangerously close to becoming a club legend as he continues to thrive in west London.
Cesar Azpilicueta simply doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Signed for silly money when Roberto di Matteo was in charge, his captaincy has improved massively since being given the role permanently at the start of last season.
There’ll only really ever be one Mr. Chelsea; John Terry still has blue blood coursing through his veins, despite an absence from the club he regards as his own. However, Azpilicueta, current club captain, is finally growing into the role that he was given at the start of Frank Lampard’s tenure as manager.
It feels like Azpilicueta has been the captain for much longer that though. Of course, the reality is, he has. Following Terry’s departure in 2017 he was appointed vice-captain to Gary Cahill whilst Antonio Conte was in charge. During the 2017/18 campaign, the internationally underrated Spaniard wore the armband 21 times in Cahill’s absence. The following season when Maurizio Sarri ostracised Cahill, that number rose to 52.
It would appear that under Lampard, Azpilicueta is finally developing into a true Chelsea blue. Signed for just under £8 million in summer 2012 from Marseille, he quickly embedded himself into the starting XI at right back. Subsequent seasons have seen him play right long the backline. In 2016/17 he played in every minute of every league game as Chelsea lifted the Premier League title under Conte.
Despite having the captaincy on the field throughout most of Sarri’s tenure as manager, Azpilicueta never really looked the part. At times, he was conspicuous by his absence. That became most apparent at Wembley Stadium in the final of the Carabao Cup when Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to be taken off when asked by Sarri.
We saw in the game against Crystal Palace this weekend strong leadership from Azpilicueta when Tammy Abraham wanted to take the second penalty of the afternoon. The captain pulled Abraham away to allow the designated penalty taker, Jorginho, to do his stuff. That will to lead and get Arrizabalaga off the field was missing at Wembley under Sarri. Of course, that may well have arisen because of the Italian’s self-perceived autocratic powers.
From a personal point of view, Azpilicueta comes across as one football’s good guys. He has always embraced social media as an avenue to develop player and fan relationships. We see regular tweets before and after matches intertwined with personal messages to supporters and fans. However, despite that goodness, Azpilicueta has a game-face too, don’t make him angry.
This new younger Chelsea squad needs the calm head of the more experienced players within the group. Azpilicueta personifies that. He’s now taken on the mantle left after Terry and Cahill’s departures and is running with it. The Spaniard clearly gets Chelsea Football Club, despite the fact there are still fans that would prefer Azpilicueta make way for Reece James.
There’s no doubt that James is the future, but there is plenty of fuel left in the Azpilicueta’s tank. He may not be Mr. Chelsea in the way John Terry is, but he’s nearer than many give him credit for.