As the line moved past Big Ears sitting patiently on its pedestal, one by one the players caressed and kissed it. Well, except N’Golo Kanté, who shyly brushed it with the lightest, briefest of touches before quickly scurrying on to join the growing collection of Blue shirts on the center stage. There, they were all waiting for the last man in the line, the Captain himself, César Azpilicueta.
After collecting his medal, Azpi grabbed Big Ears by its big ears, plucking it off its plinth. “Look what I got,” he seemed to say to rest of his expectant teammates as he stalked, trophy in hand to the front of group. There, with a great big heave-ho, he hoisted it high into the Portuguese night sky, jumping at the same time, legs spread wide with the unbridled joy of reaching the very top of the European football pyramid.
If there was a textbook for trophy lifts, this is the one they would teach. Perfectly orchestrated, perfectly timed. He even had his shirt tucked into his shorts. Of course he did.
Azpilicueta has certainly had plenty of practice in this regard in his nine years as a Chelsea player. This is his seventh major trophy, and the only one that had been missing from the collection. Two Premier League titles, two Europa Leagues, and an FA Cup and League Cup each will now keep the greatest club trophy of them all company.
Azpi was already a legend. Already eighth on the all-time appearances list, now with 429, before etching his name into the record books as the Captain of the Champions of Europe. Legends don’t come much bigger than that.
César Azpillicueta, but we’ll just call him Dave. The last remaining first-team signing from that fateful post-Miracle in Munich summer of 2012, now with a Champions League trophy of his own via the Perfection in Porto. Chelsea paid Marseille £7m. Practically a rounding error on the club’s books. But his value has been immense, on the pitch — center, left, or right — and now off of it as well, having truly grown into his leadership role.
“There are a lot of emotions going through my mind. It has been a tough season but we ended it in the best way possible.
“I want to mention the whole group. Only a few of us were lucky to be on the pitch but the preparation from the group, everybody, the staff, was amazing and it made a difference. This win was from the whole group. The preparation was amazing as was the energy in the dressing room. I know how it can be to be left out of the team when we have so much competition in the squad but they gave everything for the team. Thanks to my team-mates and to the staff and to everybody.
“For me to be able to have this moment is incredible [...] a few months ago a lot of people doubted the quality of the team but we created a special bond and we did it.
“At Chelsea I have learned we go for everything. We fight for every single game and trophy, and I am pleased that I could get my hands on the trophy that I have missed.”
-César Azpilicueta; source: Chelsea FC
Mourinho once said that with 11 Azpilicuetas, he could win the Champions League. At the end of the day, we only need one!
Azpi has one year left on his contract. He will turn 32 before the summer’s out. He may have lost a step over the last couple years, but he’s far from done.