This is the man who can win Chelsea the Champions League this season

first_img 3 “It would be 0-0,” says the player, laughing, when we ask how he thinks he would get on in a Champions League game alongside ten clones. “I would not score a lot of goals. But I have played in nearly every position. When I was young, I started as a striker; afterwards, I played on both wings and even in midfield with the under-19s for the national team. So I’ve played more or less everywhere, but I’ve always tried to improve in every position to be a better player.”Always learningWith Serbian Branislav Ivanovic occupying the right-back berth at Chelsea, the right-footed Azpilicueta found himself playing on the opposite flank – and performing well enough to displace longstanding incumbent Ashley Cole. “I tried to learn from him in every training session,” says Azpilicueta of Cole. “The same with Ivanovic as well – I try to learn from everybody.”The signing of left-back Filipe Luis provides him with another player to learn from, but also a threat to his place – although the Brazilian didn’t start a league game until Azpilicueta had to serve a suspension for getting sent off against Crystal Palace. It was the first straight red card of his career, and only the second dismissal for a player who, as a defender, picks up surprisingly few bookings (just two last season, in 45 appearances for club and country).Azpilicueta insists the presence of the £15.8m signing isn’t troubling him, though. “My job is not to think about this,” he says. “It is to work and to be available for the manager. I have played against Filipe Luis before, and he is a very good player. So now we are a stronger team.”The team has been strengthened with other new signings, two of whom – Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas – are familiar to Azpilicueta from a tough summer with the national team. “It was the end of an era in which they won everything,” he says of his first major tournament experience with Spain, who crashed out in the group stages of the World Cup. “It didn’t work, but not a lot of players can say they have experienced playing in a World Cup. We expected to go further, but sometimes in football you get beat. You have to accept this.”Despite their travails in Brazil, both Costa and Fabregas have hit the ground running in west London. “I knew they were good additions to the team,” says Azpilicueta. “They’re getting very good goals and assists and making the team play better. “Costa is a strong player. He holds the ball, he can shoot with the right foot and the left foot. I think he is a complete player who can make the difference at any moment. You cannot give him any space.”Century cityAzpilicueta reached 100 games for Chelsea in the London derby against Arsenal recently, but feels he still has a lot to learn. “You see the dressing room, the names we have – a lot of them have won the Champions League; they have played important games,” he explains. “I’m trying to learn from them, and to play as many important games as possible.”He cites the positive influence that the return of Stamford Bridge legend Didier Drogba has had on the dressing room, but saves his highest praise for Mourinho. “He has changed everything, I think,” he smiles. “The first year was difficult, but now we have the stability he brings. He’s one of the best, and I think both as a club and as a team we are improving. I think we go step by step, though, game by game. It’s a long way until May.” 3 3 Cesar Azpilicueta This feature appears in the current edition of Sport magazine. Download the free iPad edition from the Apple Newsstand, and follow on Twitter @sportmagukWhen Cesar Azpilicueta joined Chelsea from Marseille in the summer of 2012, he quickly struck up a close friendship with the other Spaniards at the club: Juan Mata, Fernando Torres and Oriol Romeu. “We were close,” he says. “We were always together, but football is like this – you cannot keep thinking about what you had before.”The defender is the only one of the four still at the club – Romeu and Torres are out on loan, while Mata was sold to Manchester United in January. For a time, it looked like Azpilicueta might be in the same boat: the full-back didn’t start a league game until the October of Jose Mourinho’s first season back at Stamford Bridge. Now, however, the man the Chelsea fans call ‘Dave’ is an integral part of a squad that remains unbeaten and top of the Premier League.“Azpilicueta is the kind of player I like a lot,” said Mourinho ahead of a Champions League tie in February. “I think a team with 11 Azpilicuetas could probably win the competition, because football is not just about the pure talent. Football is also about character and personality, and Azpilicueta has all those traces of a winning personality.”last_img read more