Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel was full of praise for team captain Cesar Azpilicueta and his “real fighter” mentality as a leader both on and off the pitch.

The 32-year-old, whose contract would initially have expired at the end of the season, is set to stay for another year at the club after reportedly triggering an automatic extension clause.

While he may still decide to leave in the summer, it seems unlikely Chelsea will let go of another defender ahead of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen’s expected free transfer exits.

The Spain international’s versatility to play cover several defensive positions make still an important member of Tuchel’s squad.

He has already played as a right centre-back, a right wing-back, and a left wing-back this season.

However, it is his influence both on and off the pitch that has impressed Tuchel the most.

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“Azpi is an example to everyone at the football club, and he has such a huge influence here,” the Chelsea manager told the club’s official website.

“An owner or a CEO of an old club once told me that you should take the mentality of your best players and your captain.

“This team has had the mentality of Azpi for years now.

“He has this mentality of a real fighter for his teammates and for the badge but also of this water carrier who is always ready to help anybody out.

“This is huge for the team, and he’s had this influence as captain of this team now for many years and there are no words for what Azpi gives us. He is simply exceptional.”

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The Blues will likely have plenty of experienced leaders in the dressing room next season, including Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Jorginho, and N’Golo Kante, but this may not be the case in the following season.

These four players’ contracts will expire in 2023, and Chelsea rarely offer long-term contracts to players above the age of 30.

Several young players, such as Mason Mount and Reece James, have shown leadership qualities, though, and even John Terry recently said he would like to see the former succeed Azpilicueta as Chelsea captain.

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