Barcelona and Atletico Madrid could go head-to-head in a transfer battle for Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta, who will be a free agent in the summer.

According to a report from Eurosport, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are keeping a close watch on the contract situation of Chelsea defender and captain Cesar Azpilicueta as they plot a summer raid for the Spaniard.

Azpilicueta is currently the longest-serving member of this Chelsea squad. Signed from Olympique Marseille in 2012, the 32-year-old will go down as one of the greatest bargain buys in the club’s history. The versatile defender has been a mainstay in the side ever since his arrival and has accumulated 445 appearances, producing a return of 14 goals and 56 assists.

Right-back, left-back, centre-back, wing-back, Azpilicueta has played in almost every defensive position for Chelsea and has always given it his everything, endearing himself to the fans. The Spaniard was named the club captain following the departure of Gary Cahill and has led the team with dignity, helping them to the Champions League and UEFA Super Cup success earlier this year.

Azpilicueta has entered the final year of his contract with the west London outfit. And while it was largely believed that the Spanish international would be signing a new deal with the club, negotiations have not progressed, with Chelsea focusing on getting the extensions of Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger sorted.

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As a result, there is a lack of clarity surrounding the immediate future of Azpilicueta, who would potentially become a free agent in the summer. And, several clubs from Europe have taken note of his situation, with Barcelona, in particular, paying close attention to the matter at hand.

The Catalans are on the lookout for defensive reinforcements in the summer with someone like Azpilicueta, who is versatile and would cost nothing, likely to appeal to them amidst their financial crisis. The right-back position has been an issue for Barcelona with neither Sergino Dest nor Oscar Mingueza impressing, which forced them to sign Dani Alves on a free transfer last month.

However, the Brazilian has penned a contract till the end of the ongoing campaign only, and the experienced Azpilicueta could be seen as a replacement for him. At the same time, the Chelsea skipper could also play at centre-back and replace veteran defender Gerard Pique as the senior figure in the backline. To that end, it has even been claimed that the Blaugrana are already in advanced talks to secure his signing.

But, Barcelona have now been joined by Atletico Madrid in the race to sign the 32-year-old. The reigning La Liga champions are in a precarious position with regard to the future of first-choice right-back Kieran Trippier, who continues to be linked with a return to Manchester United, while Sime Vrsaljko has never been able to perform consistently for Los Colchoneros.

Someone like Azpilicueta, with his doggedness, determination and attitude, can be a good fit into the ethos of Diego Simeone and his team. And his availability on a free transfer makes him an appealing prospect. It remains to be seen who among Barcelona and Atletico come out on top in his transfer race, or whether Chelsea hand their captain a new contract.

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