Petr Cech column: Precious Azpi epitomises captain’s worth, and why I didn’t like being skipper

Petr Cech chooses Cesar Azpilicueta as the subject of his column this week after the defender reached the milestone of 200 matches as Chelsea captain. His former team-mate Cech explains why the Spaniard has been perfect for the role, and touches on the 33 occasions he led the Blues out…

We have a tradition of big-name captains. When you become a club captain it’s a special moment for the player. When you reach that point in your career and consistently wear the armband in big games, lift trophies and the team is successful, that’s a fantastic combination. For Azpi to be able to captain the team in more than 200 games is a special achievement.

It’s not only that you captain the team in 200 games. If you count all the trophies, he completed the whole set, including some as captain. That makes it even more special. Not everyone has that privilege of picking up the trophy.

Huge congratulations to him. It shows how hard he worked throughout his career, and how well he played. It’s not only about being captain, it’s about playing well enough to be on the pitch regularly and being a key part of the team. He’s been all that.

Leading by example is best

When it comes to captain material, there is something in the player, and with experience it comes out. One thing that has always struck me about Azpi is that he is an honest player, he goes on the pitch and does his best, no matter what. He plays with the right commitment, with the right attitude, with his full heart. This is what makes him consistent.

He is a very good trainer. He prepares the same way as he plays, and that’s the key to his level of performance. You know what you get. He might occasionally make a mistake like everybody does, he might not always have a spectacular game, but you always know you will get a high level of performance from him. This is what is precious.

If you’re man of the match one game and the worst the next, and you have that up and down, after a while even the manager says ‘I would rather have a guy who delivers a very good performance every week than an inconsistent player’. That’s something Paulo Ferreira had. Azpi has taken that on. Now’s he is the leader of this team and the captain, and that’s not an accident.

He can let his emotion show. He’s not as vocal a leader as some others, but he leads by example. That’s what you need. Leading by example is the best. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do: how committed you are, what your preparation is like, how professional you are. That shows the other players how it’s done.

Away from the pitch

The captain is responsible for the Premier League meetings which people don’t really see. You represent your team when there are discussions about different approaches and referees. Then when you talk about charities and where the team can contribute, he represents the team.

Being a club captain is not only that you wear the armband on the pitch, but you have certain duties towards the club. When people need help, you should be there to pass on what’s expected as a Chelsea player. We have been lucky in the past to have big personalities and great captains, and it’s great to see Azpi took on the baton and carried it forward.

Captain Cech

I didn’t like being captain, for one reason. As a captain, you always have to talk to the referees. I would love to speak to the ref, you need someone to be present, but if it happens in the opposition box, I’m 80 yards away! Sometimes you have to go there, then run back, and the time it takes looks bad.

I always used to delegate a team-mate, and say to the ref if there was a problem 80 yards from me, speak to this player. It was a honour to be the captain for the game, but from a goalkeeper perspective it didn’t make much sense. I found it not 100 per cent practical.

When it came to the supposed advantage of being able to choose the goal we defended, I always lost the toss if I remember! I couldn’t care less about that to be honest, despite the sun maybe affecting a goalkeeper. If you played at Anfield at midday, you would rather start where the Kop is because the sun would become so low in your eyes you couldn’t see anything. There are little things like that, but if didn't win it, no problem, that was okay. Concentrate on winning the game! 

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