Cesar Azpilicueta’s poor Chelsea form has reportedly put La Liga clubs Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao on red alert.
The 30-year-old Spaniard has been criticized in recent weeks for a dip in form that has coincided with Chelsea conceding nine goals in their first four Premier League games.
Azpilicueta has been one of the first names on the Blues team-sheet in recent years but now faces competition for his right-back starting berth.
Blues boss Frank Lampard rates youngster Reece James very highly and is poised for more playing time once he recovered from able surgery.
The teenager is expected to resume training during the current international break so that Lampard can monitor his progress while the senior players are away playing for their countries.
That will put added pressure on long-serving Azpilicueta who has been at Chelsea for seven years and is the club captain.
And, according to the Express, both Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao could be ready to offer him a way back to Spain.
Azpilicueta was born in the Basque region of Spain where both clubs occupy and the hope is that he can be persuaded to return.
It could even be as early as January if Azpilicueta finds himself fighting an uphill battle to remain in Lampard’s plans.
The defender started his career at Osasuna and then moved to Marseille before Chelsea snapped up the fullback or centre back for a bargain £7m in 2012.
And he has become known for his versatility in recent years, helping the club win Premier League titles playing at centre-back and at left-back.
However, the Spanish international has faced criticism for some of his performances this season, including Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Sheffield United, when Lampard’s team threw away a two-goal lead.
Azpilicueta played in 57 games for Chelsea last season as the team won the Europa League and finished in the Premier League top four.
He would definitely have to accept a pay cut if he was to sign for either Bilbao or Sociedad but he may be more willing as he enters the final years of his career.
Azpilicueta, who has two years left on his current Stamford Bridge contract, has won six major trophies at Chelsea and been ever-present so far this season.
But Lampard’s side has won only one of their opening four league games and their defending has been largely to blame.
Athletic have had a good start to the season and are currently lying second in La Liga after three games, while Sociedad is lying 13th.
Source: Daily Star