Premier League • England

Azpilicueta decision leaves Chelsea stars ‘bewildered’, as Tuchel crisis looms

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel and defender Cesar Azpilicueta 2021

Chelsea players are ‘bewildered’ at the ongoing uncertainty surrounding club captain Cesar Azpilicueta as an avoidable crisis threatens to engulf Thomas Tuchel, per a report.

The Spanish veteran, 32, has been the heart and soul of Chelsea’s backline for many a year. Azpilicueta is capable of operating at both wing-back or in central defence. The ACL injury suffered by Ben Chilwell could even see him deployed at left-wing-back if Marcos Alonso continues to disappoint.

His versatility and leadership qualities make him an invaluable member of Tuchel’s squad, even though his minutes in the league have been slashed this season.

As such, many expected a new contract for Azpilicueta at Stamford Bridge to be a mere formality.

However, less than a month away from the winter window – at which time Azpilicueta can sign a pre-contract agreement with overseas clubs – a new contract appears no closer to being signed.

That prompted Barcelona to commence plans to bring Azpilicueta back to Spain, according to El Nacional.

Now, Eurosport provide their take on the situation, and the Chelsea squad seem just as baffled as many Blues fans will be.

They state Chelsea believed tying Azpilicueta down to a one-year extension would be ‘straightforward’. It has proved anything but, despite the player hoping he can extend his stay in the capital.

Chelsea leave Azpilicueta ‘in the dark’

Azpilicueta is reportedly aware of interest in Spain, most notably from Atletico Madrid and Barcelona. The fact he remains ‘in the dark’ over his future has ensured he has kept his options open.

This has all come as a surprise to the Blues squad who are stated to be ‘bewildered’ at why a new deal wasn’t a formality.

However, the Azpilicueta situation is by no means a one-off. Indeed, Thiago Silva, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger are also out of contract next summer.

Magnificent Chelsea legend heading to Barcelona

Magnificent Chelsea legend heading to Barcelona

Cesar Azpilicueta looks set to leave Chelsea at the end of the season, with Barcelona strongly linked.

Eurosport cite ‘sources close to the situation’ that reckon it’s ‘almost certain’ Rudiger will move on. Real Madrid are widely reported to be the frontrunner for his signature despite apparent interest from Liverpool.

Christensen too could depart despite Tuchel’s call to arms last week. The German insisted Christensen must “walk the talk” and pen fresh terms.

That all combines to put the future of Chelsea’s biggest strength – their defence – up in the air. Without an established and dependable rear-guard, challenging the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City for the top honours will become increasingly difficult.

Digne issues give Chelsea timely opportunity

Meanwhile, Chelsea are reportedly ready to jump on Lucas Digne’s problems at Everton by making a move for the left-back in the January transfer window.

Ben Chilwell’s partial ACL injury has left the club short at left-back and prompted a potential move for Digne.

The England man suffered the problem in the Champions League win over Juventus. His initial diagnosis was six weeks out and then a review of the situation after that. However, if the former Leicester man needs surgery then he could be out for the season.

To that end, a swoop for Digne certainly makes sense after the Toffees star had a fallout with Rafa Benitez.

Digne was a notable absentee for Monday night’s comeback win over Arsenal. And The Athletic reports that Digne is unhappy with his role under the Spaniard.

The report adds that Digne’s Goodison future is now up in the air and that a January exit is possible.

READ MORE: Abramovich, Tuchel talks convince Barcelona man to become perfect Chelsea replacement for Rudiger