Azpilicueta: It was like wow! I have won everything for this club maybe it’s time for a new chapter
By Paul Lagan at Goodison Park
Cesar Azpilicueta has opened up about the anguish, frustration and excitement surrounding the possible move to Barcelona, and then the sudden change that meant that he signed a new extended contract with the Blues and a little pay rise to sweeten the deal.
The Spanish skipper, who signed from Marseilles in 2012 for about £8million looked set to be heading to his homeland with Barcelona dangling their badge and history as a major inducement.
It looked like a dream move for the 32-year-old who had won every trophy possible at SW6.
He said of the new deal: “I am really happy. Of course, it has been a crazy last few months. It felt right to carry on my journey here in a new project and I am really looking forward to the new season.
“It’s true that it is a very rare situation. I was out of contract until March. I played the games [to trigger a one-year renewal] but the club was still under sanctions.
“My actions spoke for themselves. I stayed committed to the club, I played the games and that’s even though I didn’t know what was going to happen. The new owners arrived and we had very honest conversations. I decided that it was right to stay at home.
Was it a tough decision to turn Barcelona down?
He said: “Yes, the conversations were there [with Barcelona]. All surrounding the club. After the Club World Cup where I became the only player to ever win every trophy, [I felt] it was the time to go back [to Spain].
“But then everything happened with this club. I wanted to stay committed to the club. I never did anything against my club.
“We had private conversations where I said everything. We had players leaving and all around that was like this. I have never been in a transfer market situation in 10 years.
“It was different. The last time was Marseille and this time the contract situation made it different because I had this clause for a number of games.
“For a period I was a free agent and who knows what could have happened in that period. I decided to stay silent because I think there was already enough noise around me. I didn’t want to make it worse because I wanted to stay focused on my game.
“The decision to leave came after Chelsea won the Club World Cup.
“Of course, it was a turning point at the Club World Cup. I tried so hard to win this trophy,” he said.
“My last trophy so I could be the only player who has won every trophy for the club. At that moment, I felt differently.
“At that moment, it was like wow! I have won everything for this club so maybe a new chapter arrives.
“It’s true that at the last break, my performances were not as good as before. I paid a big price for playing from December to February. I think I played the most minutes and I did it playing wing back. Of course, I am not getting younger and it is a position that demands a lot of energy every three days and playing the Club World Cup. I think all the emotions, feelings and tiredness made me feel like this. The last two months I wasn’t as good physically as before.”
With new owners comes the prospects of a new adventure at Stamford Bridge, something the skipper is relishing.
He said: “I am really excited otherwise [I wouldn’t sign].
“I am very honest. We expressed our opinions and I had a meeting with the owners. They wanted me to stay here to lead the team both on and off the pitch.
“It’s a big thank you to them. They were very honest and transparent from the first day. I felt a responsibility to stay here in my home. My family is happy here. We have a new project with new players and youngsters coming in. I feel right and ready to look forward.”
On the pitch and following their 1-0 win at Everton, Azpilicueta recognises that the side needs to score more if they are to challenge for the title.
He said: “Every team wants to score a lot of goals and not concede.
“It’s true that in the league for the last few years we were a bit far. I think it has been five seasons since we won it last time.
“We need to score goals if we want to win. We need to score goals and not concede. I think lately, the last couple of games in the Premier League, we didn’t score enough and we conceded with half-chances.
“That’s why we finished third with 20 points behind Manchester City.”
Picture top: Cesar Azpilicueta after the 1-0 win at Everton on Saturday. Picture: Paul Lagan