Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has said Cesar Azpilicueta is torn over a possible move to Barcelona and hinted he may reluctantly sanction a transfer if the defender does not feel he can be fully committed to the club.
The 32-year-old’s deal was due to expire at the end of the season but a performance-related clause triggered an automatic one-year extension, complicating a widely-speculated switch to the Catalan giants.
Azpilicueta joined Chelsea from Marseille in 2012 and February’s Club World Cup victory meant he has won every single trophy possible during his decade at Stamford Bridge: Two Premier Leagues, one Champions League, two Europa Leagues, one FA Cup, one League Cup, one Super Cup and one Club World Cup.
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Sources have told ESPN that Azpilicueta is keen on a move to Barca and Tuchel said negotiations are ongoing, although restrictions imposed on the club as a result of the UK sanctioning owner Roman Abramovich mean no transfer could be completed as things stand.
“We had a lot of these talks because very genuinely it felt like he won everything after the Club World Cup, then suddenly given his personal situation I can understand these thoughts that maybe a cycle is at his end,” Tuchel said.
“Then it is a change of ownership and he played only under this owner in this structure so it maybe increased even his second thoughts about his situation. But then his extension kicked in at the same time.
“He loves the club, he loves the challenge, he loves to be here and he is our captain. We are still in a dialogue and at some point we are also selfish. We are not responsible to solve any other club’s problems or to fulfill any other club’s wishes.
“Given the fact we lose key defenders already [Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen are set to leave for Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively]it is not the ideal scenario to think about losing Azpi even if I can understand his personal point of view.
“At some point, if you are a legend – which he is – you deserve maybe also from me and the club a second look at it, if there is maybe an exception from the rule and we are still in this process. I would hope strongly [that he stays]. He knows this. We are still in talks to find out the idea. “
Despite the emergence of Reece James to rival him on the right side of Chelsea’s defense, Azpilicueta has remained a key part of Tuchel’s plans, starting 40 games in all competitions this season.
Azpilicueta’s leadership is also viewed as critical to a squad about to lose two more experienced players in Rudiger – and to a lesser extent Christensen – but Tuchel suggested the Spaniard needs to determine whether he has the hunger to continue setting an example for his team -mates.
“He is everything Chelsea is about and I am so happy that he is the captain because he is humble, he is hardworking, he is a nice, polite guy and I’m happy in general in football that it is possible a guy like this can win all the trophies, “Tuchel added.
“So that sets the example, that’s sets the tone and the atmosphere at the highest level. This is absolutely clear but there are more layers that we have to consider – it is something that he gives if he is fully committed.
“If there is maybe for him he can not get rid of this feeling, if we have to talk about it openly, seriously and respectfully – because he deserves – if he can give all this which makes him special, I think that with all respect he can only be special if he is committed 100% and do not have one second, little voice in his head.
“Not one concern in his head that maybe he should have done something different. Only if he is fully committed is he the guy he is because that is his foundation. There is no need to find out tomorrow or today because we are also in the privileged position that we have a contract. So let’s see. He maybe needs to find out for himself. “