Cesar Azpilicueta has confessed that he did consider leaving Chelsea for Barcelona but felt a duty to be loyal to the Blues in the wake of their takeover this summer.
The club captain saw an automatic one-year extension triggered in his contract last season to prevent him becoming a free agent, but talks remained on with Barcelona over a possible transfer to La Liga.
Chelsea had been open to granting Azpilicueta an exit as a show of respect for his ten years of service, although manager Thomas Tuchel was always adamant he wanted the 32-year-old to stay. He eventually got his wish as Azpilicueta inked a new two-year contract.
On his rollercoaster of a summer, the defender told the Standard: “Yes, the conversations were there [with Barcelona], all around the club.
“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 to Spain. But then everything happened with this club. I wanted to stay committed. I never did anything against my club. We had private conversations where I said everything.
“I have never been in a transfer market situation in 10 years. It was different. The last time was Marseille and this time the contract situation made it different because I had this clause [to extend my deal] after a number of games.
“For a period I was a free agent and who knows what could have happened then? I decided to stay silent because there was already enough noise around me. I didn’t want to make it worse because I wanted to stay focused on my game.”
Winning that Club World Cup - the only piece of silverware missing from Azpilicueta's CV at the time - was a huge moment for Azpilicueta and one which prompted significant reflection about the future.
“It was a turning point,” he acknowledged. “I tried so hard to win this trophy. At that moment I felt differently. At that moment it was like, ‘wow, I have won everything for this club’, so maybe a new chapter arrives. It’s true that at the last break my performances were not as good as before.
“I paid a big price for playing from December to February. I think I played the most minutes and I did it playing wing-back. Of course, I am not getting younger and it is a position that demands a lot of energy every three days.
“I think all the emotions, feelings and tiredness made me feel like this. In the last two months [of the season], I wasn’t as good physically as before.”