Tuchel's damning assessment of Chelsea's draw at Zenit
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There is growing concern among Chelsea staff that Cesar Azpilicueta views the end of the season as an ideal time to leave amid interest from Spain. Next summer marks 10 years since Azpilicueta arrived from Marseille, and, now club captain, he could soon be eyeing a new challenge.
The 32-year-old has been a crucial figure under Thomas Tuchel, helping Chelsea to the Champions League last season.
Azpilicueta’s European triumph in May saw him lift his seventh major trophy with the Blues, but a new generation is coming through.
He is no longer considered Chelsea’s first-choice right-wing-back, with Reece James flourishing into one of Europe’s best in the position this season.
It has left him contending with Antonio Rudiger, Thiago Silva, Andreas Christensen, Trevoh Chalobah and Malang Sarr for a place in Tuchel’s back three.
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But similarly to Rudiger, Silva and Christensen, the Spaniard’s contract expires after the current campaign.
And according to ESPN, Chelsea players and staff fear he will decide to pursue a new chapter and move elsewhere in July.
Barcelona have been tracking Azpilicueta, while Atletico Madrid view him as a potential replacement for Kieran Trippier.
He is free to negotiate with overseas clubs from January, and the prospect of a return to his homeland is said to be ‘attractive’ to him.
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Chelsea are said to be relaxed about his contract running down due to his proven loyalty to the club.
Discussions over a new deal have been described as ‘active’, but they haven’t progressed, and Azpilicueta is yet to decide where his future lies.
One significant issue that has risen is the length of contract he’s demanding, given his age.
Chelsea will be hesitant to slap a bumper new deal on the table when his time as a starting Premier League centre-back could be nearing its end.
Silva is proof that top-class centre-halves can continue to perform at a high level deep into their thirties if conditioned and managed correctly.
The Brazilian is expected to agree a one-year extension at Stamford Bridge, despite turning 37 in September.
Azpilicueta will have some thinking to do over what his next steps are, and Chelsea’s success this season could play a massive part in his decision.
Tuchel’s side are battling on all fronts to add to their ever-growing trophy cabinet and are currently embroiled in a tight Premier League title battle with Liverpool and Manchester City.
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