Marc Cucurella has revealed how his home debut for Chelsea on Sunday helped fulfil a recent prophecy that he might one day get to call Stamford Bridge home.
Our new Spanish defender made his SW6 bow for the Blues in a tempestuous London derby against Tottenham, claiming an assist for our opener and then finding himself involved in a fiery ending to the contest.
It was not his first appearance at the Bridge following a runout for Brighton & Hove Albion last term, though it was his maiden game in the royal blue and subsequently felt all the more special following a conversation with his wife last year while driving down the Fulham Road.
‘I remember going to London with my family and on the way back to Brighton we drove in front of Stamford Bridge,’ he said, taking up the story.
‘I said to my wife “imagine one day playing in this stadium”, and this summer I had the opportunity. It’s a dream for me playing at this big club.’
The Spaniard completed his transfer from the Seagulls earlier this month and has admitted he found the early days a little daunting, particularly walking into a dressing room with serial winners and big names.
However, he believes the tight-knit and down-to-earth group have helped him settle swiftly, aided in particular by his compatriot and new captain Cesar Azpilicueta.
‘Of course you’re nervous because they have big players who won Champions Leagues and World Cups, very important players,’ he said. ‘The group is very unified with a good atmosphere and the players are happy here.
‘I knew I was coming to a big club but they are normal people and that makes it good. After that I like it because the quality of the players is so high, the training is very good and in the games all the players run, so if maybe I fail then another player helps me.
‘This is good because when your team-mates help each other, these are the teams who win trophies.
‘Azpilicueta helped me a lot because he speaks Spanish so helps with the house, the school and the kids. It’s very good for me that the captain is Spanish and he helps me. He is a legend here with a long history in a big club, playing every game, so an important player.’
Cucurella also had warm words for another fellow defender and revealed he was most intrigued to meet N’Golo Kante in person having read so much about our midfield maestro’s humble personality.
‘I like a lot Reece James’s style of play,’ he continued. ‘He’s a good player and plays right-back so it’s a similar position but on the other side.
‘The most curiosity for me before I came here was Kante because I read a lot of news that he’s very quiet and very human. I think this is true and I’m very happy to be here with him.’
One team-mate who may be competitors as well as colleague is fellow defender Ben Chilwell, who continued his recovery from a long-term knee injury with 90 minutes for our Under-21 team on Monday night.
Cucurella had only positive words about the England international’s welcome and his belief that the two can push each other to great heights.
‘He helped me a lot in these first days,’ he revealed. ‘He’s a very good person and this competition is good. In these big clubs, you always have competition and your partner in the position is high level.
‘If they play good, they stay more confident to work hard and train hard. If we stay alone, maybe in the mind you think if you don’t train well then it’s not a problem because you always play.
‘But when there is big competition it’s better for me, for him and for the team. We have two players for one position, and whichever player is better is put in the line-up.’
Wing-back, Chilwell’s preferred position, might not be the only role Cucurella is deployed in by his new head coach Thomas Tuchel. In fact, nine of his 35 Premier League appearances as a Brighton player came as a left-sided centre-back in a three-man defence, the same system used predominantly by Chelsea.
It is a position he was not familiar with prior to his move to England but one he has relished following a first runout there against Tuchel’s Blues at the Bridge last December.
‘I never imagined playing in this left centre-back position but I remember the first game I played there was against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge,’ he added. ‘I saw the line-up and I was so scared to play there against [Romelu] Lukaku because I thought that’s impossible for me!
‘I don’t know why but I played really good, maybe because I liked the style of the team and my team-mates, which helped me a lot. It was a big opportunity and a new position for me. I played a lot of games there and it’s good for me because I have more chances to play every game.
‘You need to stay focused more when the team is attacking, see the strikers to stay pressed or not concede a counter-attack. I like it because you help the team in the build-up and to take the ball to the strikers. It’s different but I enjoy it.’