It hasn’t quite been an annus horribilis, all things considered, but César Azpilicueta was undoubtedly hoping to end the year on a good note, especially after Spain raised expectations with their impressive 7-0 win over Costa Rica to begin their World Cup campaign. Alas, much like most things football in 2022, things got progressively worse from there, with Spain losing their final two games, including in the Round of 16 earlier this week, which Azpilicueta didn’t even get to play in thanks to an injury he had picked up in the previous game.
Then again, perhaps we shouldn’t have expected any different after all that’s happened in the last 10-12 months. In fact, if we stop to reflect just for a second about all of that all-of-that, we might come to a similar conclusion as Azpilicueta. It’s been a Year, man, with a capital Y and all the extra emphasis we can muster.
“It feels like three years and we’re still in December. We started as world champions with Chelsea, the only [club] title I didn’t have. Then: the war, the sanctions, the personal situation…”
“[It was] hard, a situation we hadn’t lived before: we changed owners, manager, some of the medical staff [...] many people leant a hand [during sanctions], not just me: staff, people with a passion for the club, who helped in difficult moments. We did what we had to. There were some things we did have to pay for among us. Players, staff, and employees never had any problems in terms of getting paid, but there were things we helped with. That’s where you really see people, who they are.”
We like to say that there is never a boring day at Chelsea Football Club, but maybe 2023 can take it a bit easier.
Azpi’s own personal situation was unstable as well for the first time in a decade, with his contract running down and the club hurtling toward a massive reset. While a performance-based extension got triggered before the sanctions hit, his future was far from decided as we went through the ownership change.
But the 33-year-old’s roots have grown strong in the SW6 over the past ten years, and that still counts for something even in modern football.
“Being captain isn’t only about the lovely moments when you lift the trophy but being there in hard times, too. It’s not about your personal situation, but the people around you. And where you feel fulfilled is when those people say: ‘Thanks.’”
“I’ve always been honest, committed: not just in words but in deeds. I had that clause and the extra year was maybe worse conditions than elsewhere. But that wouldn’t have made me happy. Happiness for me is being there in the hard moments at Chelsea, something we had never, ever experienced before. Those months were a strange situation. The new owners came, trusted in me, saw me as an important part of the new project. I decided to stay. I’m very happy.
“It’s my home. I’m Spanish of course, but my daughters were born there. When we went to Marseille years ago, it was just me and my wife; now there are three kids. We’re delighted there. People at my kids’ school, my wife’s friends, those you see daily, people at the club, are happy you’re still with them. That gives you satisfaction.”
-César Azpilicueta; source: Guardian
Azpilicueta’s next appearance will draw him level with Petr Čech for sixth all-time in club history. Seven more, and he will become the sixth player to reach 500 appearances.
But we’ll probably still just call him Dave.