After signing a new two-year contract with Chelsea, Blues captain Cesar Azpilicueta has described the responsibility he feels to help the club make a smooth transition and establish the foundations for another era of success.
The Spaniard will celebrate 10 years with Chelsea later this month, an incredible achievement even before you factor in the huge success he has helped bring to west London during that time, but it was confirmed last week that his Blues career will continue into a second decade.
That news arrived in a period of big change at Chelsea, as we begin our first season under new ownership. The prospect of being part of a new era at the Bridge is certainly something that excites Azpilicueta, although he insists the question of motivation was never an issue when he was considering the next step in his career.
‘The motivation has been always there,’ he explained. ‘Since I arrived 10 years ago I have always found a club with ambition, always fighting for everything at the highest level, so I’m really excited by what’s going on.
‘We have a new project in our hands but our target and our ambition is always to fight for everything and we will work hard to achieve it. We know that every season the competition gets higher and higher, so we will work hard to achieve the goals that we want for this season.’
Instead, it is the responsibility he believes goes along with wearing the captain’s armband that seems to have been upmost in his mind when putting pen to paper on his new contract.
The 32-year-old acknowledges the final months of last season were tough for everyone associated with club, but knows it is his job to lead by example in the difficult times as well as the moments of glory, meaning he was proud to take on the challenge of leading the team through it, as he is to lead us into the next chapter of Chelsea’s history.
‘In the last months, since February, with the sanctions and the change of ownership, we lost players too, we have lived moments of uncertainty. It was not easy, but now a new chapter begins and of course now we are living a period of transition.
‘When we lived these moments of difficulties, you have responsibility as captain. It’s not only to be there to lift the trophy when you’re in first place, it’s also to be there when there are moments of uncertainty, moments of difficulty. So in my role as captain, I feel the responsibility to help us stick all together to go through this period of transition, to work hard on the pitch to get the results.
‘The new owners, they have a great ambition to keep winning trophies, to expand and grow as a club. So from my role as captain I will try to help as much as I can on and off the pitch, also to make it a bit more stable. I feel the responsibility to be here and hopefully to enjoy more good moments in the future.
‘We have new people working hard to make the club better and better. We had very honest conversations, we shared our opinions and at the end of the day we all want the same thing – to keep winning trophies, to keep improving the team, to keep growing and pushing. So I’m really pleased and proud to be part of it, to be captain and give everything I have with my experience and my leadership to help everybody at the club.
‘We had a very successful period for the last 19 years with the previous owner, which is amazing, and now a new chapter begins. In life opportunities come and we have to take them.’
Azpilicueta also looked back on what has been an incredible 10 years with Chelsea, during which he has won every major trophy going, and admitted it has surpassed anything he could have imagined when he first came to west London a few days before his 23rd birthday.
Back then he was one of several promising summer signings – which included Eden Hazard, Oscar and Victor Moses – who joined the freshly crowned European champions knowing they faced a difficult task forcing their way into an experienced and established side.
‘I arrived in 2012 and I remember it very well, one of the young lads coming into Cobham with great ambition. Chelsea had just won the Champions League, so of course we wanted to have these feelings too, to win all the trophies that Chelsea won before.
‘I knew that I was not a big signing who was coming to walk straight into the starting XI, but I knew that the club had confidence in me. The manager at the time Roberto Di Matteo trusted me and Michael Emenalo the technical director as well. So I felt the confidence even if I knew that I had to work my way into the team and I focused on learning every day even if I didn’t play at the beginning, and to grow from there. 10 years later I’m still here!
‘Of course I wanted to win trophies but I didn’t think about winning a lot, you just want to win trophies. After 10 seasons, to win every single trophy, it’s a big achievement I’m really proud of, but I still want more. That’s very clear, I don’t want to stop here, I want to help the club to keep winning more trophies to make our fans proud. When you have the feeling of lifting a trophy you want to repeat it and repeat it.’
Those trophy triumphs also stand out when he considers his best moments with the club, although thrashing Wolves 6-0 on a perfect Blues debut remains one of his happiest memories.
‘I would say my debut with Chelsea against Wolverhampton in the League Cup was one of the best. I was looking forward to playing that game and I really enjoyed it. The result was good, it was at Stamford Bridge, so everything went right.
‘Then winning trophies has always been the key moments you enjoy, whether it was the day when we won the Premier League for the first time since I arrived, in 2015, or the day that we got the trophy, or winning the Champions League in Porto. The Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi was quite special as well, to get that trophy for the first time in the club’s history.
‘I would say as well there have been very good moments where we enjoy a great atmosphere at Stamford Bridge, and away with our fans as well. When we won at West Brom for my second Premier League title, that was one of the moments we really enjoyed.’
With his new contract meaning we have at least two more years of Azpilicueta at Chelsea to look forward to, we are sure there will be more great moments to add to that list soon.