Cesar Azpilicueta on how to travel like a club legend

Cesar Azpilicueta Chelsea 2022-23
The Chelsea star gives his top advice on how to travel in style

The city of Pamplona is significant for several reasons. It’s home to Miguel Indurain, the only man to win the Tour de France. It’s also the birthplace of Cordero al Chilindrón - a slow-cooked lamb and pepper-based stew that looks a bit like something you’d get for your school dinner on a bad day, but tastes delicious.

Perhaps most importantly, though, Pamplona is the hometown of César Azpilicueta, the man who has made more appearances for Chelsea Football Club than any other non-English player in history. Azpi started his career in Pamplona, playing for Osasuna. He made his debut in a 2–0 to Real Madrid. He was 17 years old and he’d have been playing against Raúl and Ruud Van Nistelrooy — what’s baptism of fire in Basque? Azpi went on a classic right-back’s journey in that he started as a forward and a midfielder, before being thrown in at right-back during an injury crisis, excelling, and making a magnificent career out of it.

Olympique Marseille came knocking pretty quickly, but Azpi’s French adventure only lasted for a couple of seasons before Chelsea took the plunge on him and, well, you know the rest. He’s still there, club captain, club legend, part of the furniture. He’s travelled Spain, France, England, and he’s been playing European football for twelve-and-a-half years, so who better to give us a few travel tips, than César Azpilicueta?

  1. TIP #1 Pick your travel companions carefully
    Getty Images

    TIP #1 Pick your travel companions carefully

    After Chelsea beat Manchester City in Porto in 2021, Azpi travelled back to London with the trophy beside him on the plane. We asked him if it was filled with champagne, but Azpi won’t be drawn on such matters - ever the model professional. “It was filled with something, but I don’t know what… It happened only once in my life but hopefully we can repeat it!” He says. And who knows? Maybe, come May, Azpi will get his wish.

  2. TIP #2 If you book a safari trip, don’t then immediately sign for Olympique Marseille.

    TIP #2 If you book a safari trip, don’t then immediately sign for Olympique Marseille.

    Twelve years ago, Azpi booked a whole safari trip—the trip of a lifetime—and then Marseille got him to sign on the dotted line, and that safari trip disappeared in front of his very eyes, and Azpi hasn’t been on safari to this very day. Another way to look at this is that if your dream is to play in Ligue 1, maybe book a safari trip in the hope that it’s foiled by a football club from the south of France.

  3. TIP #3 Always take a spa session over beach football.

    TIP #3 Always take a spa session over beach football.

    Azpi is still playing at the top level of professional football at the age of 33, which is no mean feat these days. Maybe part of that is down to him knowing how to take it easy. “Spa session [over beach football], 100%. You have to. On holidays, you have to relax.” The thing is, you might remember Ben Chilwell told us he was a big fan of beach football, and we have photographic evidence of Azpi bicycle kicking a ball in a swimming pool, supposedly whipped into him by his wife or his daughter… we’re just saying—maybe the odd game of sandy five-a-side won’t destroy your burgeoning football career.

  4. TIP #4 Plan your trips according to the season.

    TIP #4 Plan your trips according to the season.

    “If I was planning a trip for my teammates during a winter break, I would go to a really nice place in the mountains, not to ski, but a nice place where we can go walking in the mountains. But if it’s summer, for me, my favourite place apart from my hometown of Pamplona—where I’d take them for a small tour and some food—I like Ibiza. There are a lot of choices—the beach, you can enjoy the nice weather, the restaurants—I think it’s a safe bet. I’m not going to the nightclubs, I’m sleeping, but the boys can do that if they want.”

  5. TIP #5 Clean out a wagyu beef shop.

    TIP #5 Clean out a wagyu beef shop.

    We found a photograph of Azpi and Chelsea’s Spanish-speaking contingent from a few years back that we asked him to explain to us.

    “That was pre-season in 2019. We went into Tokyo—amazing people, amazing place—and on the way back we found this place and got wagyu sandwiches. We got everything they could make. We cleaned out the whole shop, and we took it to the bus with the staff and everyone, and took it back to the hotel. Everybody was so happy.”

    Not sure why we never thought of that before, actually. Solid tip from the captain.

  6. Tip #6 Service is everything.

    Tip #6 Service is everything.

    We asked Azpi what the most important thing a hotel has to have is. Does it need to have super-soft towels, a great breakfast, good views?

    “For me, service is the most important thing. Like if a problem happens, they are happy and ready to help you. Because the experience is that. It’s not only what is tangible—the food or the tea—but also how they bring your tea, the smile in the morning. That kind of thing is really important."

    We couldn’t agree more. Do you want a job, actually?

  7. Tip #7 Do not travel to the airport with N’Golo Kanté.

    Tip #7 Do not travel to the airport with N’Golo Kanté.

    This is the second in our How to Travel series with elite footballers, and this is the second time we’ve been told not to travel with the nicest man in world football, N’golo Kanté. 

    “He is a happy guy, but he is the most likely to forget his boots or his passport.”

    One person saying you’re a liability is unfortunate. Two, and there’s probably some substance to these accusations. Will we do the ‘don’t travel with N’golo’ hat-trick next time? Probably. We probably will. Sorry, N’Golo.