There are some players who love being in the limelight, and others who just can’t help being in it. There are others though, who play week in, week out, perform with unerring and undoubted consistency and then quietly stay away for the rest of the week. Cesar Azpilicueta is such a player.
If someone were to debate who was Chelsea’s best defender this season, the most common answer would probably be John Terry, and with good reason too. The 34-year-old has defied all the odds to perform at this level and play every game in a title-winning season, to match records. Branislav Ivanovic, the brash and always-entertaining right-back is never too far away from the headlines, mostly for the good reasons, and sometimes for the bad. Gary Cahill had a lukewarm season, looking out-of-sorts and jaded for large parts before getting a grip and stepping up to the plate in the last few games of the campaign.
Azpilicueta though is different. It took some time but since joining from Marseille, he has been an integral part of our side, one of the first names on the teamsheet. Who would have thought Ashley Cole’s demise would come in the form of a Right-back! As a defender, there are few others who are technically more sound. He rarely puts a foot wrong or makes a reckless tackle and seldom does he get into meaningless squabbles. In short, he never gives the media much to write about any histrionics. He just goes about his business with minimum fuss, so much so that his presence is almost imperceptible off the pitch.
Of course, we are talking about a right-back who plays at left-back. A player who displaced Ashley Cole, the best left-back of his generation, before keeping out Filipe Luis, the best left-back in Europe in the 2013-14 season. Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher, who both know a thing or two about defending, called him the best in the Premier League.
In Eden Hazard, Azpilicueta doesn’t necessarily have the best cover ahead of him. While the Belgian has improved that side of his game a lot, the assurance that Azpilicueta gives at the back allows Hazard to concentrate on the attacking side of his game without constantly needing to look over his shoulder. Also, Terry has a lot to thank him for as well, as the left-sided centre-back found his business to be a lot easier with such a solid rock on the flank.
Mourinho had this to say about the Spaniard:
“A team with eleven Cesar Azpilicuetas would probably win the Champions League.”
Fondly known as “Dave” (readers who watch ‘Only Fools and Horses’ will get this one), Azpilicueta has endeared himself to the fans and teammates with his pleasant demeanour and positive attitude. His game reflects it as well, as his quality comes along with his passion, devotion and tenacity, making him a real hit with the supporters.
A lot of the plaudits may have been taken home by Hazard and Terry this season, but Azpilicueta was right up there as one of our best players. His consistency on a weekly basis makes him almost inconspicuous at times, but his importance to this Chelsea team is unquestionable. He is also a big part of our future, and if he continues playing like this, it will long before anyone in these parts forgets him.
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Edited By: Ojas Tripathi