Cesar Azpilicueta has admitted he came close to leaving Chelsea for Barcelona last season, but that he ultimately felt a responsibility to remain “in my home”.
The Blues skipper penned a new two-year contract extension earlier this month, to end weeks of speculation over his future, after the club triggered a 12-month extension clause before his prior deal expired amid the off-season.
The Spaniard completed a sweep of major honours at Stamford Bridge with the Club World Cup in February, and says that he felt ready to consider a move back to his home country in the aftermath.
But the subsequent sanctions imposed against owner Roman Abramovich amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine saw him have a change of heart, with a desire to stand by the team as they transitioned to the Todd Boehly era.
“Yes the conversations were there [with Barcelona],” Azpilicueta was quoted by The Guardian. “After the Club World Cup, where I became the only player to ever win every trophy, I felt it was the time to go back.
“But then everything happened with this club. I wanted to stay committed to the club. I never did anything against my club.
“We had private conversations where I said everything. We had players leaving, and I have never been in a transfer market situation in 10 years. It was different. For a period I was a free agent.
“Who knows what could have happened in that period. I decided to stay silent because I think there was already enough noise around me. I didn’t want to make it worse because I wanted to stay focused on my game.
“I had a meeting with the new owners. They wanted me to stay here to lead the team both on and off the pitch. It’s a big thank you to them. They were very honest and transparent from the first day.
“I felt a responsibility to stay here in my home. My family are happy here. We have a new project with new players and youngsters coming in. I feel right and ready to look forward.”
Azpilicueta started Chelsea’s first game of the new Premier League season on Saturday, as Thomas Tuchel’s side ran out 1-0 victors against Everton.
The Blues next face Tottenham, in an early test of their top four credentials, on Sunday.