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

Bonuses?

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE‘Mame,’ ‘Hello, Dolly!’ composer Jerry Herman dies at 88160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Re “Bonuses swell pay for police, firefighters” (March 21): I am always amazed when City Council members make it sound that police and fire uniform/equipment allowances are some kind of a “vacation bonus.” Interesting how this seems to happen at the same time police labor contract negotiations are beginning. Police officer uniform pants are $90, shirts $50 and boots can run up to $200. That’s not counting leather gear for their gun belts and other expense (dry cleaning, shoe polishing, ammo for practicing). This will be a great recruitment tool. While other departments give their officers up to $1,500 for a uniform allowance, we can say, “Join the LAPD, we can offer you nothing!” – Andrew Garcia Simi Valley Wrong target Re “Say anything” (Editorial, March 20): You state: “The council ought to explore the larger cost of using overpaid Water and Power workers.” For your information, Water and Power only supplies power to traffic signals; we don’t maintain them. As far as overtime goes, sometimes I’m asked to work and sometimes I’m told to work, always due to problems (severe weather, earthquake, etc.) or for someone on vacation or sick. The lights don’t stay on by themselves. I guess those of us who get called at 2 a.m. in the morning to come work because 10,000-plus people are without power should just say “no.” – Chuck Fowler Van Nuys Cut them slack “Overtime abuse” (Editorial, March 21): How can you be so hard on those poor overworked people at the DWP? After all, the operation of their plants is 99 percent automated so they have to fill their days with intraoffice rap, having coffee, having lunch, having siestas, visiting the water fountains and restrooms and telling jokes about those stupid taxpayers. You can’t really expect them to get all that done in regular time. Won’t you please cut them some slack? – Ralph Smathers Newhall Shouldn’t shock Re “Comet samples shock scientists” (March 14): Why the shock at discovering materials made with heat in the returned sample from a comet? Wasn’t the material subjected to heat upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere? Were precautions taken to keep the sample cold during that phase of the trip? – Irving Leemon Northridge Keep the law Re “What would Jesus do for immigrants?” (Viewpoint, March 19): Many Catholics are incensed at the behavior of Cardinal Roger Mahony. Writers such as Domenico Maceri are not able to conceal his wrongdoing behind a trendy expression of “What Would Jesus Do?” Apart from the immigration issue, he is protecting the “rights” of so-called priests under the guise of separation of church and state. It is significant that the Daily News’ editorial of Oct. 13, 2005 urged the obstinate cardinal to “come clean” with the public. In the passing of Proposition 187, Maceri does not delineate that the majority of taxpayers chose to withhold benefits from undocumented workers in the entire state, not just in Los Angeles County. This strong voice came from rational people who practice the keeping of the law, not defying it. – Kenneth Grissom La Crescenta High achieving Re “Balboa’s tops in LAUSD” (March 16): While not wishing to detract from the outstanding accomplishments by Balboa Gifted Magnet School in achieving an API score of 978, please understand that 100 percent of the student body represents a “select” group of students who have tested gifted/advanced academically before they were granted acceptance into the school. If you are ever again looking to recognize a high-performing school, visit Castlebay Lane Elementary School. Our school consists of a cross section of students found in most neighborhood schools, complete with English-language learners, resource and special education students. Our dedicated and passionate team of teachers, support staff, administrators and parents, along with our hard-working student body, generated an elite API score of 904. – Sandy Dorfman Porter Ranch Bull by the horns Re “The teen who snuffed out smoking in Calabasas” (March 17): The city leaders of Calabasas took the bull by the horns and threw him off the cliff! A smoker is a drug addict who cares nothing about the rights or needs of others, let alone his own. – Gary Beane Longmont, CO Bravo Calabasas Re “The teen who snuffed out smoking in Calabasas” (March 17): When this city passed their sensible smoking ordinance, they gave their citizens a most precious gift – additional years of life. California has always led the nation in “the good life;” now if only the rest of the U.S. will follow before the smokers kill us all. – Yvonne Grant Houston, Texas Big difference Re “Smoking ban” (Your Opinions, March 15): Dante Rochetti likens the Calabasas smoking ban to the Gestapo. He wonders if next the city will ban, among other things, brown eggs. There is a big difference. Rochetti can eat three dozen of them a day if he wants – it won’t give me a heart attack. But secondhand smoke kills people besides the smoker. Smokers don’t have a right to pollute my life in a public place. If they try, they deserve to be arrested. – Mike Kirwan Venice Our best interests Re “Sophomoric” and “Smoking ban” (Your Opinions, March 19): It’s funny how silly individuals frequently lament the loss of a freedom to do something stupid. Society will continue to place restrictions on personal freedoms when in its best interest. We have speeding rules, drug rules, drinking rules, etc. Your right to drink stops when you get behind the wheel drunk, as it should be with smoking and my health. As to the carcinogenic 101 Freeway, do you really think we should all walk? Cars have some of the most restrictive rules around. They require tune-ups and smog tests, annually. Where’s my right to drive a smoke-belching clunker? Just don’t drive behind me. So, who’s being sophomoric, your irrational bad habit, or society’s collective desire to increase everyone else’s safety and well being? – Peter A. Bodner Thousand Oaks Horsey cartoon My late husband was fond of saying, “There are those that God uses and those that use God.” In the case of David Horsey, it’s obvious he is the latter. In his political cartoon “A Brief History of Religion” (Portfolio, March 20), he puts his negative spin on religion itself without noting that there are billions of people who have allowed God to use them for the good of humanity. I laughed in his face when he tried to liken the U.S. with Iran over the birth control issue. Now, all I have to say about this cartoon is Horsey manure. – Maureen C. Wiggins Lake View Terrace It evolved Re “Bigger question” (Your Opinions, March 16): Regarding the question of evolution vs. intelligent design, Wilma Bennett asks, “If an intelligent designer created everything, what created the intelligent designer?” Well, with tongue in cheek, I’d like to respond. In a nutshell, no, Wilma, it did not just pop up out of nowhere: it evolved from a lesser intelligent designer. – Anita Work Sylmar Divine revelation Finally, I have been convinced. I have changed my mind and have decided to believe in the idea of an intelligent designer. The true benefit of my new belief is that I can now think of most politicians as planned obsolescence. – Michael Smith Tarzanalast_img read more