Chelsea: Nine reasons why Cesar Azpilicueta is 'captain, leader, legend' after CWC win

  • Kobe Tong

Cesar Azpilicueta solidified his status as a Chelsea legend when he lifted the FIFA Club World Cup trophy on Saturday night.

Signed with minimal fanfare all the way back in 2012, the affectionally-nicknamed ‘Dave’ has firmly established himself as one of the greatest ever players to pull on the famous blue jersey.

Besides, you only have to look at his trophy cabinet at Stamford Bridge to see why with the Club World Cup taking pride of place alongside Champions League, Premier League and Europa League titles to name just a few.

Azpilicueta’s legendary status at Chelsea

Marry that to making more than 450 appearances, playing with unerring consistency plus generally showing the mentality of an elite-level athlete and the adoration from Chelsea fans quickly makes sense.

And pulling on the captain’s armband since Gary Cahill’s departure has just been the cherry on top with the Spaniard leading the club with the type of integrity and honour that is becoming increasingly rare these days.

So, in celebration of Azpilicueta’s latest triumph as Chelsea skipper as well as his decade in west London across the board, we wanted to honour just a few moments that makes ‘Dave’ a captain, leader, legend.

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Let’s start easy: who’s this iconic character?

Nine reasons why Azpilicueta is ‘captain, leader, legend’

From his actions in the Club World Cup final itself to leading by example in the wider community, check out nine reasons why Azpilicueta is one of Chelsea’s greatest ever players down below:

1. Mediating Kepa vs Sarri

Who could possibly forget the moment that Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to be substituted by Maurizio Sarri during the 2019 League Cup final?

Well, that was the perfect opportunity for on-pitch captain Azpilicueta to show his mettle by bridging the gap between the playing staff and the coaching team by helping to cool tempers at Wembley Stadium.

According to the Metro, Sarri confirmed: “The captain spoke to me immediately after the match, then he spoke with Kepa. Yesterday we spoke altogether, the situation is really very clear in the dressing room.”

LONDON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 08: Refere Michael Oliver points to the spot to award a penalty after reviewing the VAR during the Carabao Cup Semi-Final First Leg match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on January 8, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

2. Shoring up the defence on Thiago Silva’s debut

Let’s face it, Silva has been nothing short of phenomenal at Stamford Bridge and winning the Golden Ball at the Club World Cup was further proof of that, but things haven’t always been that way.

In fact, the Brazilian icon endured one of the worst Premier League debuts of all time that started with a disastrous 45 minutes culminating in later-relegated West Bromwich Albion racing into a 3-0 lead.

And who saved the day by coming on at half-time? Azpilicueta, of course, who shored up Chelsea’s defence, calmed Silva’s nerves and pumped up his teammates with the Blues going on to draw 3-3. Superb.

Soccer Football – Premier League – West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea – The Hawthorns, West Bromwich, Britain – September 26, 2020. Chelsea’s Thiago Silva and Cesar Azpilicueta Pool via REUTERS/Laurence Griffiths EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club /league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

3. Disciplinary record

For a defender with over 300 Premier League appearances and a warrior’s spirit that means he doesn’t shy away from tough tackles when required, Azpilicueta’s disciplinary record is truly an example to his teammates.

Since inheriting the captain’s armband in 2019, the Spaniard has only amassed six yellow cards in the league with not a single booking to his name this season.

And with his overall Premier League record of almost ten years documenting just two red cards, Chelsea players could do a lot worse than taking a leaf out of Azpilicueta’s book in the years to come.

Soccer Football – Europa League – Champions League – Group H – Valencia v Chelsea – Mestalla, Valencia, Spain – November 27, 2019 Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta is shown a yellow card by referee Felix Zwayer Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

4. Not shying away from penalty shootouts

Any good captain leads by example and Azpilicueta is one of the last-standing bastions of captains stepping up in football’s ultimate lottery regardless of whether they’re a defender by trade.

Azpilicueta has stepped up and scored crucial shootout goals in the 2019 League Cup and 2021 UEFA Super Cup finals as well as stepping up to the plate for crucial FA Cup and Europa League deciders.

Marry that to the 32-year-old being one of the first players to console Tammy Abraham after his costly miss in the 2019 UEFA Super Cup final and his fatherly role during shootouts simply can’t be downplayed.

Soccer Football – Carabao Cup Final – Manchester City v Chelsea – Wembley Stadium, London, Britain – February 24, 2019 Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta celebrates after scoring a penalty during the shootout REUTERS/David Klein EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or “live” services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

5. PFA Community Champion award

However, Azpilicueta leading Chelsea by example isn’t just confined to the white lines of the pitch because the captain’s brilliant work in the community is also a massive part of his legendary status.

Both Azpilicueta and Millie Bright were named as PFA Community Champions for 2019/20 with the former having been nominated for his commitment to Chelsea’s charitable causes throughout the season.

The Blues hero was further praised for his appearances at Chelsea’s monthly Community Days as well as his efforts within the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

6. Stopping Tammy Abraham taking a penalty

Part and parcel of being a great captain is upholding standards and representing the manager’s will, which was exactly what Azpilicueta did against Crystal Palace in the 2020/21 season.

Azpilicueta prevented Abraham from taking a penalty during the Premier League tie in order to uphold the fact that Jorginho was the designated taker under Frank Lampard.

Because Chelsea were leading 3-0 at the time, Azpilicueta could easily have let it go, but deciding to stand by the plan of attack regardless of the circumstances ensured that a risky precedent wasn’t being set.

7. Underrated record with assists

However, Azpilicueta does more than help out his teammates with actions and words, but also in the way that he plays his football because Chelsea’s skipper is criminally underrated for his creativity.

The Blues hero has turned provider for 35 Premier League goals across his decorated career, which means that he’s within 15 assists of Jordan Henderson and 20 of Paul Scholes. Not bad going, huh?

In fact, according to the division’s official statistics, only eight defenders in Premier League history have teed up more goals for their teammates than Azpilicueta.

Soccer Football – Club World Cup – Final – Chelsea v Palmeiras – Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – February 12, 2022 Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta poses with the FIFA fair play award after the match REUTERS/Matthew Childs

8. Defending Kai Havertz before FCWC penalty

Ah, one of the key reasons that we’re here with Azpilicueta almost certainly using mind games in the Club World Cup final to ensure that Kai Havertz, 22, wasn’t subjected to Palmeiras’ efforts to put them off.

Azpilicueta gave the impression that he was going to take Chelsea’s penalty by holding on to the ball as the inevitable heckling and distractions unfolded, before eventually giving the ball to Havertz at the last second.

According to Olivia Buzaglo, the man himself confirmed the ploy by saying that he ‘knew what they were like’ and wanted to take the pressure off Havertz in a tactic that could hardly have worked any better.

9. The approval of John Terry himself

However, regardless of the reasons above and how much you read into them, there is perhaps no better endorsement of Azpilicueta’s suitability as Chelsea captain than Terry’s very own seal of approval.

In the words of the Blues icon himself per the Daily Star: “He’s [Azpilicueta] verging on annoying and a nightmare because nine times out of ten if you have him in your team, he’s winning.

“I always said to him that if you had 11 of you, you would have an unbelievable team. I see him as a leader and I think you can see that from when he first arrived and developing into that role.”

Britain Football Soccer – Chelsea v Sunderland – Premier League – Stamford Bridge – 21/5/17 Chelsea’s John Terry and Cesar Azpilicueta celebrate with the trophy after winning the Premier League Action Images via Reuters / John Sibley Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or “live” services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

A guaranteed club legend

Admit it, rival fans, there are a lot of you who would swap out your current captain for Azpilicueta tomorrow in a world where that was possible.

Don’t get us wrong, there are many ways you can be an elite leader, but there’s most certainly a time and place for the sort of old-fashioned ‘follow me lads’ attitude that you always feel channelling through Chelsea’s skipper.

And now that the 32-year-old has quite literally completed the full set of trophies available to him at Chelsea, he can rest easy knowing that he’s left no box unticked in English football.

Whether or not that will prompt him to leave in the summer remains to be seen, but there’s no denying that ‘Dave’ has put in quite the submission to have banners of him held aloft at Stamford Bridge for years to come.

Chelsea 2-1 Palmeiras Match Reaction (Football Terrace)

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