Chelsea are reportedly set to renew the contract of captain Cesar Azpilicueta, who has emerged as a top target for Barcelona ahead of the summer.

According to Goal, Chelsea look set to extend the contract of captain and defender Cesar Azpilicueta amidst strong interest from La Liga giants Barcelona.

Azpilicueta has been with Chelsea since 2012 when he arrived from Marseille in a deal worth around €7 million and will go down as one of the best bargains in the club’s history. A mainstay for most of his stint at Stamford Bridge, the Spaniard has done the job for Chelsea as a right-back, a left-back and a centre-back, playing in four-man defences or a three-man backline.

The 32-year-old has firmly established himself as a fan favourite due to his committed displays and leadership qualities. He has been captaining the team since Gary Cahill’s exit. During his time with the Blues, Azpilicueta has won every title he has contested for, adding the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Super Cup to his CV last year while lifting the FIFA Club World Cup earlier this year.

Azpilicueta’s current contract with Chelsea stands to expire at the end of the season, which had sparked interest from Barcelona. The Catalans wished to sign the versatile defender on a free transfer in the summer as they sought to add more experience and leadership to their backline, along with quality depth.

Staying at Stamford Bridge or moving to Camp Nou? (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Staying at Stamford Bridge or moving to Camp Nou? (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Talks between Barcelona and Azpilicueta were believed to have reached advanced stages, and an agreement was understood to be close. However, the Blaugrana now seem set to hit a roadblock as the 32-year-old’s contract looks to be extended by another year.

As per certain clauses in his contract, a twelve-month extension would be triggered if certain objectives were met. And the report states that the clause is now set to come into play, which will see Azpilicueta’s deal stretched by another year until the summer of 2023. It will come as a blow for Barcelona, who hoped to sign up the Spaniard on a free transfer.

Since the deal had been in place before the UK Government’s sanctions on Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, the contract extension would not violate any terms of the special licence under which the club have been allowed to continue operating.

Azpilicueta has kept his cards close to his chest with regard to his future. However, given the good relationship between him and the club, there could be a chance that they decide to let him leave on a free transfer if he wishes to do so in the summer window. It gives Barcelona some hope of landing the 32-year-old, with the Catalans already proposing a two-year contract offer to the Spaniard.

Apart from Azpilicueta, Barcelona also have their eyes on his Chelsea teammate Andreas Christensen, who is believed to be close to completing a move to Camp Nou. Whether Azpilicueta decides to follow suit or continues at Stamford Bridge beyond the current season remains to be seen.

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