Manager Thomas Tuchel feels Cesar Azpilicueta has many key attributes that have helped Chelsea achieve so much success this season.
The Blues made it to the Champions League final with a superb 2-0 victory over Real Madrid on Wednesday evening. That gave them a 3-1 aggregate success and they will face Manchester City in Istanbul on May 29. The west Londoners are also through to the FA Cup final and will play Leicester City on May 15 at Wembley.
They are fourth in the Premier League table and it is obvious what an impact the German coach has had. He has managed to get the best out of players that were struggling under previous manager Frank Lampard.
“He’s a huge, huge factor; a key factor and a key player for me at this club,” he said. “He, for me, expresses everything that I think is typical for Chelsea; he’s a fighter, he’s a team player, he does not accept limits, he’s always available, a top, top professional and at the same time a very nice guy.
“It’s deep within him to be a team player, he’s very self-aware, very self-reflective and it’s a pure pleasure to have him in the group.”
Azpilicueta has just one year left on his current deal and other clubs are keen. But the fact that he is clearly a favourite of the manager suggests they will try to keep him in the capital.
Tuchel admits immediate connection with defender
It is always tough for a new manager to arrive midway through a season. And it was made even more difficult for Tuchel as he was replacing a club legend in Lampard.
But he has made a seamless transition to the Stamford Bridge dugout and results have been spectacular. They have lost only once in the league while the only other defeat was to Porto in the Champions League quarter-finals.
The players appear to have adapted well to the 47-year-old, who was immediately struck by Azpilicueta’s qualities.
“It was like this from the first moment; we had a strong connection from the first moment,” he added. “I met a very honest and very open young man, who is so super-reliable on the pitch and who leaves his heart out there on the pitch every time he steps on the pitch for us.
“As a captain he’s a true leader, in his personal way that suits his characteristics. And we’re very happy that he plays all the time because he deserves to play all the time.
“He’s a key factor, with his mentality, mindset and his ambition.”
The next test is Saturday’s dress rehearsal for the European showpiece. City host Chelsea at the Etihad in the league where victory will give Pep Guardiola’s side the title.