Chelsea have secured César Azpilicueta on a new long-term contract with the manager, Antonio Conte, praising the business conducted by the Premier League leaders when they secured the Spaniard for only £7m four years ago.
The right-footed defender, capped 18 times by Spain, has been a consistently impressive performer in both full-back roles and more recently, as a third centre-half, with successive Chelsea managers having grown to depend upon his steady influence. Azpilicueta, who was signed from Marseille and has since won the Premier League, League Cup and Europa League with the club, has signed a three-and-a-half-year contract which commits him to the Blues until 2020.
He is expected to play his 200th game at Sunderland on Wednesday as Conte’s side seek a 10th league win in a row. “I’m pleased, and I’m pleased for him,” said Conte when asked about the defender committing his future to the club having been linked to Barcelona last summer. “He’s impressed me a lot with his commitment, his work-rate, his ability to play also in different roles. He’s a good professional and I’m pleased for him, and above all the club and the fans. A really good player has signed.
“Look back, it was a good piece of business [bringing Azpilicueta in from Marseille] for us, for Chelsea. ‘Azpi’ is a really good player. Now, I think, his valuation is very high. He’s an important player who can play in different roles, so it was a good affair for the club.”
The 27-year-old, a graduate of Osasuna’s youth system and now a mainstay of Conte’s team, expressed his delight at securing his future. “Since I arrived here my target was to progress as a player and win trophies,” he said. “This new contract gives me the chance to continue my relationship with the club. That’s what I wanted and obviously I’m really happy here.
“We’ve had some really good moments this season. From day one, we started working very hard. We have a new manager with new ideas and I’m really happy to be working with him. Obviously we can still improve but the long-term aim for us is to win trophies, that is what we all want, the players, manager and fans.”
Chelsea will not address John Terry’s future until much later in the season, with talks yet to take place over whether the injured captain prolongs his stay by a further 12 months. The 35-year-old is expected to rebuff interest from Chinese Super League clubs, led by Shanghai Shenhua, during next month’s window to play his part in the title challenge.
“John is our captain and I think he’s doing a great job when he played,” Conte added. “Now that he’s not playing, he’s helping me a lot in the changing room, to send the right message to the players. This is fantastic. John loves this club. I think it’s important now to be focused on the moment and not thinking about the future.”
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