Hindsight is a beautiful thing, especially in football. Sometimes you wish you could have signed a player when they were young, unknown and cheap – like Newcastle passing up the opportunity to sign a young Zinedine Zidane in 1996. Cesar Azpilicueta may not be the next Zidane, but his value has skyrocketed in the last six months. Arsenal were linked with a £2 million move for the Osasuna full back in September 2009, but now the Spanish defender is being linked with £14 million moves to the likes of Barcelona, Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Manchester City.
A product of Osasuna’s youth side, Azpilicueta was originally a midfielder before becoming a right back. Azpilicueta made his La Liga debut in April 2007 in a loss to Real Madrid, aged 18, and has been a regular fixture in the side since, making over 60 appearances for the club. The defender has made 24 appearances for Osasuna this season, who are currently 13th in La Liga. The 20 year old is the first choice right back for the Spanish U-21 side and has also represented his country at U-17, U-19 and U-20 levels. He has been tipped for a future call up to the Spain squad and has an outside chance to be named his country’s World Cup squad, although the presence of Sergio Ramos in front of him doesn’t help his chances.
Aggressive in the tackle and possessing plenty of natural skill, Azpilicueta is an attacking full back that has the potential to be great. He is under contract at Osasuna until 2014, but has a £14 million release clause built into his contract. This has alerted the likes of Barcelona, Manchester City and Arsenal, who are all interested in acquiring the services of the young Spanish sensation. Barcelona, in particular, want Azpilicueta to act as cover for Dani Alves, but would be hesistant to pay £14 million for a back up. Of course, money is no object for Man City, so paying a fee like that would be no obstacle for them. Chelsea could also be a viable destination for Azpilicueta, they were looking for a right back last summer and have had Ivanovic filling in for the majority of the season.
Osasuna will undoubtedly want to keep hold of one of the hottest prospects in Spain but with the release fee in his contract, they might have to sell him to one of the many big clubs sniffing around the talented Azpilicueta.
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