- Spanish defender saw deal run down in 2022
- Triggered an extension & signed fresh terms
- Happy to have remained in the Premier League
WHAT HAPPENED? Back in the spring of 2022, the veteran Spanish defender found himself heading towards free agency and sparking talk of interest from Camp Nou. He was, however, to eventually trigger an extension clause in his contract when taking in at least 45 minutes of 30 games for Chelsea that season and talk of a switch to Camp Nou began to fade.
WHAT THEY SAID?: Quizzed by The Athletic on whether he regrets not pushing for a return to his homeland, Azpilicueta said: I had won all the trophies with them [Chelsea]. We had been crowned the best club in the world. I was also made captain. I will not hide or be in a position where I only look after myself. By doing that I would let my team-mates, the manager, the club and the fans down. I know there was a big noise because we had other team-mates in a position where they were free agents. My name was there as well. But I spoke clearly with my actions. They are more important than talking and then doing your own stuff to protect yourself. I ended up signing another contract, with the confidence from the new ownership and in the new era. I have no regrets.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Azpilicueta added on finding himself in a similar position to fellow defenders Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen, who eventually left west London as free agents to join Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively: “My situation was unique. I didn’t get to the 30 total until March and, by then, we were already operating under sanctions. I could have signed an agreement in January to join a team abroad as a free agent in the summer, but I never had it in my mind. I wanted to be with the club during a difficult situation. I had better options in terms of contract years and salary elsewhere, but that’s not what I wanted to do. I’ve been here for over 10 years. I’ve had a chance to create an amazing relationship with the fans, the club, employees. I could not leave. Even though I knew what triggering the clause would mean, my heart, my head didn’t allow me to do anything other than keep being ready for every match and playing 30 games. I did not know who the owner was going to be or what situation we were going to end up in, but that is how I felt.”
IN TWO PHOTOS:Getty
WHAT NEXT? Chelsea opened a new era in the summer of 2022, as Roman Abramovich departed and a Todd Boehly-led consortium completed a takeover of the club, and Azpilicueta has had an important role to play this season as he offers vital experience to a much-changed squad that has spent big but underperformed badly.