Today marks nine years since Cesar Azpilicueta completed a transfer from Marseille to Chelsea, something which didn’t bring too much expectation at the time.
He came to English football as a relative unknown to most. However, nine years on his £7million deal has to be one of the biggest bargains of the last decade.
The 31-year-old has cemented his spot in Blues folklore. He’s won eight pieces of silverware during his time at Stamford Bridge so far, including the UEFA Super Cup at the beginning of this season, his 10th year with the club.
The defender’s versatility has seen him play all over the backline and we’ll examine that below.
It’s hard to pick out the best moments from ‘Azpi’ because he’s so reliable year-on-year with constant 7/10 performances. However, here The Chelsea Chronicle ranks Azpilicueta’s nine full seasons with the Blues from worst to best:
9th place – 2015/16 season
First of all, Azpilicueta hasn’t got the nickname Mr.Consistent over the years without good reason.
This wasn’t a terrible individual campaign from the Spanish defender, but it’s a year that Chelsea fans wouldn’t mind erasing from recent history.
He alternated between full-back positions during the campaign and remained professional during a difficult time. Jose Mourinho was sacked in the December of 2015 before Guus Hiddink took charge for the rest of the season.
8th place – 2019/20 season
When Frank Lampard took charge as manager for this campaign he had a very familiar face from his playing career in his squad, ex-teammate Azpilicueta.
This was another fairly consistent year of performances from Azpilicueta, who wore the armband and set an example to teammates. Unfortunately, it didn’t end in any silverware.
His extreme versatility saw him plug many holes for Lampard, including at centre-half, left-back and right-back.
Some suggested he was slowing down and the Reece James era was starting, but it wasn’t quite the beginning of the end.
7th place – 2018/19 season
This was a rollercoaster year under Italian boss Maurizio Sarri.
With then-club captain Gary Cahill in and out of the team due to form and injuries, this was the time we saw Azpilicueta grow into a leader by stepping up with the armband on the pitch.
A career-best nine assists in all competitions that season showed the attacking side of his game which Sarri helped unlock. He was mainly seen in the right-back position that Chelsea signed him for, too.
He won his second Europa League with the Blues when they beat Arsenal 4-1 in the final in Baku.
6th place – 2017/18 season
This was Azpilicueta’s second season working under Antonio Conte and you’ll have to hang around to see where the first one ranks.
Despite all the positions he’s filled in a Chelsea shirt, a right-sided centre-back in a back-three has to be right up there with the role that suits him most.
His connection with Blues striker Alvaro Morata was deadly in the early parts of this season. Also, he was key during the club’s FA Cup success, which culminated in beating Manchester United in the final.
5th place – 2012/13 season
Azpilicueta’s debut season in west London sneaks into the top five. This is perhaps here for nostalgia purposes.
It was pretty obvious from his opening weeks at the club he was a fully committed defender that wore his heart on his sleeve. He played as a right-back during this debut campaign.
It took him some time to adjust to English football as he played under Roberto Di Matteo. However, Rafael Benitez’s mid-season appointment in November was a turning point for him.
A first of several European trophies was clinched for him by beating Benfica in the Europa League final.
4th place – 2020/21 season
Last season finishes so high because it ended with Azpilicueta lifting the Champions League trophy.
Rewind to the beginning of the campaign, and he was seemingly out of the best XI under former boss Lampard.
Azpilicueta, along with several members of the current Chelsea squad, were eventually transformed by the arrival of current manager Thomas Tuchel in January.
A switch to a 3-4-2-1 formation saw the defender return to his trusted right centre-half role, so it’s no surprise he recaptured some of his best for to help win Europe’s elite club prize. His heroic display in the victory against Manchester City in the final perhaps would have some people place this season higher.
3rd place – 2013/14 season
Azpiliceuta didn’t win a trophy this season. Therefore, what is this campaign doing so high up the list?
Well, this is the year that put him up on the map as one of the very best one-on-one defenders in world football.
Not only was he arguably Chelsea’s outstanding performer during a season that Jose Mourinho returned to the club as manager, but he did that in a new position.
His versatility saw him dislodge Ashley Cole from the starting XI at left-back and to move above the Chelsea legend in the pecking order highlights his ability at the time.
2nd place – 2014/15 season
Okay, this is very unlucky not to top the list. He built on an amazing first year with Mourinho to arguably become even better.
There was so much to love about Azpilicueta in this year because he was a defensive rock at the peak of his powers.
The fact he won the Premier League and League Cup during this time means it edges out the 2013/14 season.
1st place – 2016/17 season
Finally, the Premier League title-winning season under manager Antonio Conte tops the list.
A famous switch of formation from Conte in the defence resulted in the Blues ending up with a back-three of Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Gary Cahill. They were all immense en route to the league crown.
It’s the second Premier League medal he’s won as a Chelsea player and the way the defence performed in the second half the campaign was immense.
If you look back at Azpilicueta’s time with the Blues so far, you’d find it difficult trying to find him look more settled than he was during Conte’s first year in England.
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