'You wanted to kick him' – Chelsea star Cesar Azpilicueta reveals toughest opponent he's ever faced | The Sun

'You wanted to kick him' – Chelsea star Cesar Azpilicueta reveals toughest opponent he's ever faced | The Sun

February 9, 2023

CESAR AZPILICUETA has lined up against some formidable opponents in his lengthy career.

None more so than one particular player, who the 33-year-old admitted he "wanted to kick" at times.

Chelsea club captain Azpilicueta first got a taste of playing against them during his time in France with Marseille.

But after the pair both joined Chelsea, the Spaniard was forced to face the tricky winger day in, day out in training.

And there are no surprises to discover that player is Eden Hazard.

The Belgian wizard was at his mesmerising best when in action for the Blues, scoring 110 goals and providing 92 assists before leaving for Real Madrid in 2019.

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Azpilicueta gushed to The Athletic: "The hardest opponent I have faced was Eden Hazard.

"Obviously there were many in other teams, but I will always say training every day with Eden was something that gave me a good taste of the Premier League.

"To face the best player in the Premier League, always one against one — I could take that experience into the games.

"I was ready to face anyone after facing Eden every day."

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The Spain international admitted Hazard was so good it left him wanting to "kick him", but even then the Belgian wouldn't go down.

Azpilicueta continued: "The way he turned… he could get the ball and turn so quickly.

"He could shoot with his right and left foot. He was strong, too. Even if you wanted to kick him sometimes, you couldn’t put him down. It was quite impressive!

"There were occasions I would get the better of him but, to be fair, sometimes he was a bit lazy in training. But when he wanted to be on it, he was very hard to stop."

Azpilicueta was also full of praise for former bosses Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte.

Mourinho was Blues boss for Azpilicueta's first Premier League triumph in 2014-15, and Conte was at the wheel for Azpilicueta's second title two years later.

And Azpilicueta revealed he shared the same winning mentality with legendary Portuguese gaffer Mourinho.

He said: "I had a very good relationship with Jose. He is someone I learned a lot from.

"The levels he was at in terms of thinking about all the little details — he knew how to win.

"He could see maybe that same winning mentality in me. Like him, I hated losing. I always have done, since I was a kid."

Meanwhile, Azpilicueta credited Conte for getting him into the best shape of his career.

He said: "Antonio was someone who was very demanding in every training session.

"I remember his first pre-season — it was about sacrifice. But you could soon feel on the pitch that you were stronger.

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"Was it the fittest I’ve felt? Yes, although that was also because I was playing every minute and felt that confidence in me from the beginning with him.

"It’s important for you to feel that in your mind. You push even more."

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