Azpilicueta unfazed about Ruediger's arrival
Despite arrival of Ruediger and rumours of Barcelona interest, Azpilicueta is focused on Chelsea's title defence
"The ICC is a big opportunity for us to play in front of our fans in Singapore. It's the best time to see the country for the first time, and to see you all there."
-Cesar Azpilicueta in a message for fans in Singapore before their arrival for the ICC
He played every single minute of every league game last season as Chelsea stormed to the English Premier League title.
Cesar Azpilicueta spent most of those distinguished minutes on the right side of the Blues' three-man central defence in Antonio Conte's effective system, despite the 27-year-old more accustomed to being a fullback.
His performances have attracted flattering interest from Spanish giants Barcelona but, back in London, Azpilicueta's reward for a masterclass in learning, then excelling in a new role, seems to be a boot back out to the flanks.
Chelsea have signed German defender Antonio Ruediger, while also welcoming back another defender who plays in the middle, Andreas Christensen, who spent last season on loan at Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Azpilicueta was pictured working with Chelsea's other wing backs - Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso - as the squad started pre-season training, suggesting that he might be used in wide positions this season.
But the Spain international was unperturbed.
"Last season, I played really comfortably in that position (central defence) and the manager asked me to stay there," Azpilicueta said in a conference call with Singapore-based media yesterday.
"He's helped me a lot and, obviously when you win, you get the assurance and you are happier.
"I'm happy to play anywhere the manager asks me to play. It's true that last season I played in many positions, but I'm happy to help the team in whatever way the manager requires."
When asked where he actually prefers to play, Azpilicueta managed an uncomfortable chuckle before saying merely: "I don't mind."
His ambivalence to the situation seems to suggest that the player - according to widespread media reports - could well join Barcelona before a ball is kicked in the upcoming EPL season.
Latest reports seem to suggest that Barcelona have turned their attention to him after cooling their interest in Arsenal's Hector Bellerin.
While Azpilicueta was prevented from answering questions about the transfer rumours, he did address the uncertainty hanging over the heads of players even as they go on pre-season tours with their clubs.
He is expected to join his Chelsea teammates in Singapore for the International Champions Cup (ICC) from July 25 to 29, when they will face German champions Bayern Munich and Italian giants Inter Milan.
He said: "It's all part of the transfer window. We know when the transfer window closes and everyone can change teams. It's not too hard, we've been living with it for years now and we take it very naturally."
Indeed, Azpilicueta refused to be drawn into revealing his feelings on his situation at the club.
"We are looking forward to the new season, being champions of the Premier League," said the Spain international.
"As you said, we have welcomed new signings such as Antonio Ruediger into our team and we're very happy to have them in our team. Hopefully we can get better and improve this season."
With Manchester United beating Chelsea to the signature of Everton forward Romelu Lukaku, and Arsenal securing the services of French striker Alexandre Lacazette, Chelsea will have to improve if they are to defend their title.
It is a fact not lost on Azpilicueta.
"To have won (the league) twice in three years was really a big challenge for the team. This season, we know how difficult it is to try to retain the title. But we are willing to fight and try to do well," he said.
And the London side will have to fight off challenges from several quarters.
"When you compete against six, seven big teams, it's very difficult to predict any champions at the beginning of the season," he said.
"I think in this league, the biggest rival is always whichever team you are playing against: you know that every point is difficult to get, we have enough experience to know that the league is a tournament where you have to perform every day."
Azpilicueta definitely knows what it takes to be consistent - he was Chelsea's Player of the Year in 2014, before going on to win his first Premier League title in 2015.
He proved that again last season, performing with distinction in a new position in Conte's new system.
The affable Spaniard has been embraced by the Stamford Bridge faithful, with fans affectionately calling him by his nickname, Dave.
"It was a nickname that they asked to call me by and I just said 'yes'. And it became bigger and bigger because... they just couldn't say my name," he said, drawing laughter from the listening journalists who also struggled with his tongue-twister of a last name.
One thing is for sure, in Barcelona, they will not get that name wrong.