César Azpilicueta has admitted he considered leaving Chelsea last season until deciding to “stay in my home” after the turmoil that ushered in a new era under Todd Boehly.
The Chelsea captain signed a two-year contract extension last week having held talks over a return to Spain with Barcelona. His previous deal had been due to expire this summer, although Chelsea activated a 12-month extension clause and the club’s former owners had offered a new one-year contract.
Azpilicueta considered leaving Stamford Bridge after victory in the Club World Cup in February completed his trophy collection with Chelsea. But the sanctions that were imposed on the club, and led to Roman Abramovich selling up, prompted a change of heart in the 32-year-old.
“Yes the conversations were there [with Barcelona],” said the defender. “After the Club World Cup, where I became the only player to ever win every trophy, I felt it was the time to go back. But then everything happened with this club. I wanted to stay committed to the club. I never did anything against my club.
“We had private conversations where I said everything. We had players leaving and I have never been in a transfer market situation in 10 years. It was different. For a period I was a free agent and who knows what could have happened in that period. I decided to stay silent because I think there was already enough noise around me. I didn’t want to make it worse because I wanted to stay focused on my game.”
Azpilicueta believes his form deteriorated towards the end of last season not because of uncertainty over his future but due to playing regularly as a wing back for Thomas Tuchel. “It was a turning point at the Club World Cup. I tried so hard to win this trophy,” he explained. “At that moment I felt differently. It was like, ‘Wow, I have won everything for this club so maybe a new chapter arrives’. It’s true that at the last break, my performances were not as good as before. I paid a big price for playing from December to February. I think I played the most minutes and I did it playing wing back. I am not getting younger and it is a position that demands a lot of energy every three days and playing the Club World Cup. I think all the emotions, feelings and tiredness made me feel like this. The last two months I wasn’t as good physically as before.
“I had a meeting with the new owners. They wanted me to stay here to lead the team both on and off the pitch. It’s a big thank you to them. They were very honest and transparent from the first day. I felt a responsibility to stay here in my home. My family are happy here. We have a new project with new players and youngsters coming in. I feel right and ready to look forward.”