In the first part of a special interview with Chelsea’s new club captain Cesar Azpilicueta, we hear the Spaniard’s thoughts on leading the side…
‘I knew how heavy that trophy is from 2013 when we won it. I knew I needed two hands to lift it!’
So remembers Cesar Azpilicueta about that joyous moment back in May when he was the man to lift the Europa League trophy after the team had convincingly vanquished Arsenal in Baku.
On that day he was the on-pitch captain and joined an illustrious list of Chelsea players who have raised silverware and celebrated. Now, following the departure of Gary Cahill who did not play that night in Azerbaijan, Azpilicueta is confirmed as Chelsea’s outright club captain this season, and this is the opportunity for him to talk about that honour and that responsibility. But firstly he returns to Baku.
‘It was big emotions when I lifted the trophy. In that moment you just enjoy it because as a captain I lost the Community Shield and the Carabao Cup final so before the Europa League final I had this inside me.
‘You want to win trophies and leading the team is something special. I was the first Spanish player to do that in a team abroad. I did not even know that before but they told me that afterwards and it was a big achievement of which I am really proud. I had strong feelings because to win a trophy being captain is something special and hopefully there are many more to come.’
The 30-year-old has certainly not been thrown into the deep end when it comes to leading the team. He did so on the pitch for 52 games last season and 21 the season before. Even in 2016/17 when John Terry and Gary Cahill were both still here he was handed the armband once. His experience of leadership goes back further than that too.
Working with Gary Cahill
‘Gary was the captain last year even if he was not very involved in the team,’ Azpilicueta reflects.
‘He was always there supporting me and helping me with the duties we had to share. Since we were named the captain and vice-captain, we always tried to work together to find the solutions.
‘Last season, nearly the whole season I was the captain on the pitch and it is something where I am used to it but always you try to improve. Being nearly the third season but now as club captain, I just try to give my best because I am very proud to be the club captain and I will give everything to do it right.
‘When I was young, at club level I was not involved in captaincy because I was always playing with the older players. In youth teams I was two years ahead so there were people more experienced around me and then I made my debut for Osasuna at 17 years old.
‘Then pretty quickly I moved to Marseille but at youth level in the national team I was captain in the Under-17s and in the Under-19s when we won the European Championship in 2007. I was the captain in the final.
‘I was the captain of Spain Under-21s and I was one of the captains at the Olympics, so I have been involved in that kind of role and here in Chelsea when I arrived, I just grew up progressively and I knew I was sitting next to big, big players. I was lucky to learn from all of them and try to be myself and to give my best.'
- In part two of the interview, Cesar Azpilicueta will talk about learning from John Terry and Frank Lampard and about the Chelsea Academy.