Cesar Azpilicueta has decided to join Atletico Madrid from Chelsea after having spent 11 seasons with the London club. The 33-year-old Spanish defender used to wear the captain’s armband for the Blues and his departure signals the end of an era at Stamford Bridge.
He became a free agent in 2023 and Chelsea decided not to continue with his services any further. He has signed a one-year contract with Atletico Madrid and will probably spend the remainder of his career in Spain. Still, along with Juan Mata and David De Gea, Azpilicueta remains a Spanish player who has done well in the Premier League for a long period of time.
A great performer for Chelsea
Azpilicueta spent a major chunk of his career at Chelsea and won every possible trophy with the club. He won a couple of Premier Leagues titles, five FA Cups and a UEFA Champions League title with the Blues, which makes him one of the legends of the club. He played in close to 350 matches for Chelsea, which is the most by any foreign player at the club.
However, the emergence of Reece James in the recent years sidelined Azpilicueta to the bench. The Spaniard began to have fewer starts for the club, with James being preferred to him. Still, the last season was an exception in this regard, as James suffered an injury and had to make way for the Spaniard.
The versatile Azpilicueta altered his position as per the team’s need
Azpilicueta played as a left-back during his initial days at Chelsea under Rafa Benitez and Jose Mourinho. However, since then, he has primarily played as a right sided centre-back and a right wing-back in Chelsea’s 3-5-2
or 3-4-3. He also played as a right full-back when the team decided to play with a back four.
He played as the right-sided centre-back along side David Luiz and Gary Cahill in the team under Antonio Conte that won the Premier League title ahead of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United and Juergen Klopp’s Liverpool.
He then played as the right-sided centre-back under Thomas Tuchel, too and also as the right full-back under Graham Potter and Frank Lampard. Azpilicueta’s crossing ability helped him while going into overlapping runs, while he remained solid while defending inside his own penalty box.
His aerial prowess was good and his tackling clean enough to help him shepherd Chelsea’s defence. Alongside another veteran in the form of Thiago Silva, Azpilicueta lent solidity to Chelsea’s defense under Tuchel and Lampard.
However, the signs of aging became apparent in the recent times, with a faster and stronger James providing a better option for the Blues down the right flank. Moreover, the advent of Kalidou Koulibaly last season meant that the Blues had more options in the heart of their defense. Still, the Spaniard kept making appearances as a substitute at times to be still of use to the club.
Still, the Spaniard will always cherish
the Champions League title he won with the club in 2021, when Chelsea beat Manchester City 1-0 in the final. Azpilicueta will be back playing in La Liga on his home soil next season, but the decade spent in England will always be the pinnacle of his career.