Chelsea should sanction the departure of Cesar Azpilicueta next summer
According to the Mirror, Chelsea are set to offer club-captain Cesar Azpilicueta a return to Spain next summer if he loses his place to emerging star Reece James.
Mirror understands that La Liga outfits Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad are keeping close tabs on the 30-year-old’s situation at Stamford Bridge ever since the veteran right-back came under criticism for his lacklustre display in the opening day loss away at Man United.
Azpilicueta, who is currently into his eighth season at the club following his bargain £7million move from Marseille in the summer of 2012, continues to be a firm fan favourite at Stamford Bridge but his performances this term haven’t done justice to his reputation.
The 25-cap Spanish international has enjoyed a trophy-laden spell at Chelsea over the course of his illustrious and distinguished career in English football, winning the Europa League and the Premier League on two occasions, as well as the FA Cup and the League Cup once each.
A veteran of 342 appearances for the Blues in all competitions, Azpilicueta is already a legend at the club, but at the ripe age of 30, he finds himself at a stage in his career where a move to a less physically-demanding league, such as the La Liga, would help him stretch his playing career.
The 30-year-old impressed with his consistency levels in the previous campaign under Maurizio Sarri but his start to the new season under Frank Lampard has been less than impressive.
If the first four games are anything to go by, the Spaniard has lacked the level of energy to cope with fast and agile attackers down the flanks, whilst also leaving something to be desired with his general level of anticipation and sharpness as a right-back.
Azpilicueta seemed to have recovered from the disappointment of the opening day 4-0 defeat at Old Trafford but he came under scrutiny once again last week, as the Blues squandered a two-goal deal to settle for a 2-2 draw at home against Sheffield United.
Indeed, it was a below-par result for Chelsea and one that would certainly have given the critics an exclusive right to dissect the flaws of the club’s porous backline.
The Blues have already shipped 9 goals in their first 4 games, the sort of record that is likely to set the alarm bells ringing early in the season at Stamford Bridge.
Despite that, however, Lampard has reason to believe that his team can hit top-gear in the coming weeks and eventually mount a challenge for a top-four finish, with his youthful transition in the first-team already showing signs of reaping rich rewards.
The likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and, to some extent, Fikayo Tomori have grabbed their chances with both hands and the charismatic presence of Lampard has been instrumental in extracting the best out of the talented academy stars.
Sadly enough, though, another academy player who was tipped to challenge for a first-team role this season, Reece James, is yet to join the party.
The 19-year-old England youth international, who is seen as the natural heir to the throne of Azpilicueta at Stamford Bridge, hasn’t yet returned to action from his injury but when he does make a return, one would expect him to force his way into the first-team.
The impressive teenager hit great heights on his loan spell at Wigan Athletic in the Championship last season and he apparently has what it takes to make the step up to the Premier League this term.
Indeed, James has a big future at Chelsea and the fans are likely to be thrilled with the prospect of welcoming another homegrown talent to their first-team.
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Azpilicueta, 30, is nearing a stage where his powers are going to be on the decline and a move back to his homeland next summer apparently makes sense for all parties involved.
With that in mind, the Blues should not hesitate to make a call on his future depending on how things pan out over the course of the ongoing campaign.