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The 32-year-old defender, who has been heavily linked with a summer move to Barcelona, was out of contract at Stamford Bridge at the end of the season.

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But a one-year extension to the deal automatically kicked in after Azpilicueta made a certain number of appearances.

 

According to the Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo, this occurred just before the UK government imposed heavy sanctions on Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich for his links to warmongering Russian president Vladimir Putin after the invasion of Ukraine.

 

Though Azpilicueta’s contract extension removes the risk of him walking away for nothing in the summer while the club remains under sanctions, he may leave the club anyway.

 

Mundo’s report stresses that Spain international Azpilicueta remains a primary target for Barcelona and they will enter into negotiations with Chelsea’s new owners to buy him if necessary.

 

Coach Xavi likes Azpilicueta’s versatility as a wing-back or centre-back and values his experience and leadership skills, reportedly seeing him in the Carles Puyol mold during the final years of his career.

 

Mundo says Azpilicueta, who has been at Chelsea since 2012 and has won every piece of silverware going, is open to a Nou Camp move.

The player’s focus, given the uncertain situation at Chelsea, is for the time being on his game and trying to end the season successfully.

 

The Blues are third in the Premier League table and unlikely to catch Manchester City or Liverpool but they are odds-on to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

They are into the semi-finals of the FA Cup, where Crystal Palace awaits them at Wembley on April 17, and have been drawn against Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals next month.

 

However, with Chelsea unable to deal in the transfer market as things stand and struggling under other restrictions, the new owners cannot come in soon enough.

 

 

Four shortlisted bidders remain in the process to succeed Abramovich and Raine Group, the bank organizing the sale, expect to present the winning bid to the UK government and Premier League in three weeks’ time.

 

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