Lost a bit in the strife and emotion of Chelsea’s latest loss over the weekend, our fourth in six games, club captain César Azpilicueta has accomplished something that had only been done by twelve (12!) others before him in history. (And only one other player not from the UK.) That 3-1 loss to Manchester City at Stamford Bridge was Azpilicueta’s 400th (!) appearance for the club. Four hundred. Four and two zeros.
.— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 3, 2021
A landmark appearance for our captain, @CesarAzpi today! #CHEMCI pic.twitter.com/zU9mXs26O8
The 13th member of the Chelsea 400-club signed way back in 2012 as one of the less-heralded (and much less expensive) arrivals in that historic post-Champions League triumph summer. He’s actually not the only one left on the team from that window, with Andreas Christensen, Victor Moses, and Charly Musonda still on the books as well — though they have a combined 242 appearances for the club.
Azpilicueta, or “Dave” as the humorous chant inspired by his daunting last name for many English-speakers goes, has kept going strong ever since, first as a utility player sometimes deployed as far forward as the wings, then as a right back, a left back (where he became one of the best in the Premier League), and even as a center back in a back-three.
His defensive excellence has been almost as remarkable as his durability, with at least 40 appearances to his name every season since 2011, which is especially impressive considering that he had blown out the ACL in his left knee in November 2010.
While a now 31-year-old Azpi is on track for fewer appearances this season than at any point since recovering from that injury — thanks largely to the emergence of Reece James — he remains an important member of the squad both on and off the pitch. He has 18 months left on his current contract, but chances are he will be signing a few one-year extensions in the seasons to come, as is tradition for those over 30 at the club. He needs just 11 appearances to reach the top ten on the all-time appearances list, and 500 could be in reach if he stays long enough. He would be just the sixth ever to get there.
- Ron “Chopper” Harris: 795
- Peter Bonetti: 729
- John Terry: 717
- Frank Lampard: 648
- John Hollins: 592
- Petr Čech: 494
- Dennis Wise: 445
- Steve Clarke: 421
- Kerry Dixon: 420
- Eddie McCreadie: 410
- John Bumstead: 409
- Ken Armstrong: 402
- César Azpilicueta: 400