Leading up to Saturday night’s glorious Champions League triumph in Portugal, Cesar Azpilicueta declared that although he was proud to lead the Chelsea team in such a momentous match, he wanted to feel even more proud.
That meant lifting the trophy after beating Manchester City and sure enough, our captain had that chance.
‘There are a lot of emotions going through my mind,’ Azpilicueta said after taking in the huge achievement.
‘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.’
The win completes Azpilicueta’s collection of major club trophies he could win with Chelsea and although he had won the FA Cup previously, he admitted losing to Leicester in the final of that competition two weeks ago acted as an extra spur towards European success.
‘Losing in the final, of course it hurts a lot,’ he said. ‘I wish we could have won both, the FA Cup and the Champions League, but we didn’t and we took this energy and this feeling. 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.’
Although he was keen to spread the credit for the Champions League win across the whole squad, the skipper had special praise for the work done by the players in the attack, and for UEFA’s man of the match N’Golo Kante.
‘He does everything, with the energy he brings,’ said Azpilicueta. ‘I don’t know how many ball recoveries he had in this game but he drives the ball forward, he covers so much ground, and when we didn’t have him we missed him.
‘After winning the World Cup and winning the Champions League, he is so humble and I am so happy for him. He is a massive part of this team.’