Cesar Azpilicueta’s 11-year stay at Chelsea came to an end on Thursday as the Spanish defender returned home to join Atletico Madrid.
Azpilicueta made 508 appearances for the Blues and won nine trophies, including the Premier League, Champions League, Europa League, Club World Cup, FA Cup and League Cup.
“Cesar leaves an everlasting mark at Chelsea as a warrior, as a champion, and as a loyal Chelsea legend,” said the club’s co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali in a statement.
“He has set the standards at the club for more than a decade and demonstrated to everyone what is required day in, day out to achieve success.”
Azpilicueta won the Premier League title under Jose Mourinho and then Antonio Conte, becoming a fan favourite for his work ethic and willingness to deputise in a number of positions.
However, his final season at Stamford Bridge was a difficult one.
Chelsea finished 12th in the Premier League — their lowest placing since 1994.
“It’s difficult to express with words what I feel,” said Azpilicueta in a video posted on Chelsea’s social media accounts.
“It’s been incredible. Just thank you to everyone because it couldn’t happen without the help of a lot of people. What a journey!”
The 33-year-old, who joined Chelsea from Marseille and began his career with Osasuna, has signed a one-year deal with Spanish side Atletico.
“Cesar Azpilicueta is a new Atletico Madrid player after an agreement reached between our club and the footballer from Navarra, who will sign for one year,” Atletico said in a statement.