We are all looking forward to having football back next weekend, and so are the players including Chelsea captain César Azpilicueta. Dave’s seeing the games on television in other leagues, and that’s just adding to the urge to start playing again.
“I see myself playing now, I watch the games on TV and I feel like playing. Soon we will see the reality.”
Azpilicueta’s anticipation is only understandable when you consider how many minutes he’s accumulated at Chelsea since his arrival back in the summer of 2012 from Olympique Marseille. In just those eight seasons, he’s clocked over 32,000 minutes and nearly 400 appearances. By the end of this season, he should be eclipsing Didier Drogba’s 381 appearances for 13th on the all-time list in fact.
That he’s carved out such a legendary Chelsea career despite his unheralded arrival — he was but an afterthought in a post-Munich-final summer that included the signing of Eden Hazard and Oscar — is a testament to not only his hard work, but his adaptability. He’s had no fewer than seven managers in those eight seasons, but he’s convinced just about every one of them of his indispensability. Whether at left back, right back, centre back, or even right wing at times early on, there was never any doubt about Dave’s commitment to the Chelsea cause.
His transformation under Mourinho into the Premier League’s left back is one prime example, though hardly the only time Azpilicueta adjusted his game seamlessly to fit into a new tactical paradigm.
“I have always tried to be available and take the best ideas from each [coach]. With some I did not start playing right away, as was the case with Mourinho, with whom in the first two or three months I barely played and ended up playing as a left-back, and I ended up winning a Premier League as a left-back with him. In the end, the daily work gives you the reward.
“When [Mourinho] arrived I came from playing with Rafael Benítez in practically every game and I found myself in a new situation, in a challenge. After my first year at Chelsea I had won the Europa League, I had played the team’s most minutes and Mourinho came and it cost me.”
“But I learned, I knew I had to work hard because my opportunity was going to come. And little by little I had it and I managed to go to the World Cup in Brazil [in 2014], and the following season we won a league together and the Cup to complete the double [in England].”
-César Azpilicueta; source: DAZN via AS
As Mourinho himself once said, a team of 11 Azpilicuetas could win the Champions League. We have a few more years to try to win one with just 1.
Azpi, with two years left on his current contract, will turn 31 this summer. But he’s not slowing down yet even as new challengers like Reece James arrive. He might need to reinvent himself a few more times, but would anyone bet against him?