A decade is a long time in football, an even longer period given the chaos at Chelsea Football Club.
Cesar Azpilicueta will reach ten years at Stamford Bridge this August after his £7m arrival from Marseille in 2012, three months after the Blues had lifted their first Champions League crown in Munich.
Back then, the Spaniard was joining a group of beloved legends who had just climbed even steeper heights to capture the holy grail that had been chased since Roman Abramovich’s arrival in 2003.
Given the low-key nature of his signing, the idea of him replicating any of his new peer’s legacies felt far-fetched.
But as I type these words in January 2022, the idea of Azpilicueta (who we all call Dave) not being considered a club legend is ridiculous.
Last May, leading the side to a Champions League crown added the fitting icing onto what was already an outstanding career in west London.
Two Premier League titles, both of which he played integral roles in different positions, an FA Cup, two Europa League triumphs, a League Cup and Super Cup, almost form the grand slam of available gold.
The 32-year-old can even surpass Frank Lampard, John Terry and Didier Drogba by winning the FIFA Club World Cup next month, a title all three missed out on during their legendary stints with the club.
However, with his contract running down and Barcelona actively pursuing a deal for his services next season, is it time to call an end to Azpilicueta’s incredible Chelsea story?
For many supporters, the mere suggestion of this is probably hard to swallow given how much we all respect, admire and value the man’s longevity.
Over recent seasons he has continually proven doubters wrong about his ability to offer more at the highest level.
Though all good stories come to an end and Azpilicueta’s fond farewell would mark the end of an era and start a new one.
A new beginning he originally contributed to in 2012 when Didier Drogba departed and Frank Lampard embarked on his penultimate season in midfield.
Both Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp grasped the need for reinvention and tough goodbyes in search of more control when they began squad revolutions that transformed their Premier League fortunes.
Guardiola saw off Joe Hart, Aleksandar Kolarov, Pablo Zabaleta and Yaya Toure in his early years at The Etihad – all players who had contributed to title wins in previous years.
The emotional farewells to David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero were more recent, mainly due to their brilliance – but goodbyes that marked the progression from one generation to another.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool narrative might not have included as tough calls given he took over a club who sat in eighth and miles from a title challenge. But only Jordan Henderson and Divock Origi remain from the pre-Klopp era speaks to his control.
Thomas Tuchel needs that to replicate something similar, and not all of the exits will be simple or easy to witness. Many of us feel no hesitation in letting go of some in the current squad, but Azpilicueta represents something different.
He has offered such incredible versatility, but his level of consistency is a trait every young player at Cobham should be aiming to replicate. But his calming leadership and brilliant work off the pitch has been valued too.
This upcoming summer might spark a more fundamental change of faces than many expect, and the beloved skipper may have to be one of them.
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Source by Football London