Interview

Captain Material: Azpi on fellow skippers

Our captain Cesar Azpilicueta talks us through his team-mates who have also held the armband, at Osasuna, Marseille, Chelsea and with the Spanish national team.

Alongside legendary skippers, like John Terry and Sergio Ramos, are more unlikely candidates such as Juan Mata, but it is with Azpi’s first captain as a senior player that he starts…
 

Cesar Cruchaga spent his entire career at Osasuna, where Azpilicueta broke through

‘He was a central defender. Tough. He helped me a lot when I was young and I broke into the first team. I remember studying English with him when I was 18.

‘He is one that I have good memories of. On the pitch I was right-back so sometimes he was next to me at centre-back. He showed me what it was to be in a first team dressing room.’

Goalkeeper Steve Mandanda was the Marseille captain when Azpilicueta moved there in 2010

‘He was very calm. A nice person. When I arrived there were not many Spanish players. I had some Argentineans who could speak Spanish, but I could speak French.

‘He was very kind with me and he tried to help me. We spent some afternoons together with our families. He spent a long time at Marseille and gave me advice on what it was to play for Marseille and what to do in the city.’

Juan Mata was occasionally the Spain captain at junior age groups

‘Juan is a very good friend of mine. I have spent a lot of time with him, starting at the youth level in Spain. We won together the Under-21 European Championships, and we went to the Olympic Games here in London.

‘He was a quiet captain, but his experience was something special. He won the World Cup in 2010, but he wanted to play for us at the Under-21 European Championships the next year. And then he won the senior Euros in 2012, and came to play at the Olympics! What a guy.’

Azpi joined Mata at Chelsea in 2012, where John Terry had been captain for eight years

‘The first day I arrived he was ready to help me if I needed anything. I could see every day in training sessions his mentality, his way of competing. When I arrived Chelsea had just won the Champions League and all the trophies before that, but he still had this ambition and this hunger. 

‘It was the same with Frank when he captained. It’s something that tells you a lot. They were winners. They wanted to win in every training session and every game.’

Iker Casillas and then Sergio Ramos have been Spain’s captains in recent years

‘Iker and Sergio have both had massive careers at Real Madrid and with the national team. They are people who always show they want more. When you arrive to a team that won everything, like I did, it’s not easy, and they tried to help.

‘I have had the chance to play a few major tournaments with Spain, and they were changing slightly to get more young people like me in. And on the pitch? They led by example, such big characters and personalities who will do anything to win.’

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