IF Chelsea had a dressing room full of “Daves” they would be unstoppable.
“Dave” is the inspired nickname given to tireless captain Cesar Azpilicueta by fans who could not find any words to rhyme with his problematic surname.
But however he is known, the indestructible Spanish defender should be immortalised for his contribution to the club over the past ten years.
Former team-mate Gary Cahill cherishes the time they spent together at Stamford Bridge, during which they won two Premier League titles, one FA Cup and the Europa League twice.
A decade ago, few people knew much about the understated full-back who signed for the new European Cup winners from Marseille for just £8million.
But now the club and player are at a crossroads.
This latest Wembley appearance could be his last in a Chelsea shirt, even though the club have the option to enforce a one-year extension on his contract.
Bournemouth defender Cahill will be at today’s game watching his mate in action and believes loyal “Dave”- should get the freedom to choose his own destiny.
Cahill, 36, said: “He is just a total success story from when he walked through the door.
Most read in FA Cup
“Look how many players come and go from Chelsea.
“There are big-money signings, exciting marquee players who find it difficult to stay there for a number of years. It is tough to do that at Chelsea.”
Blues fans settled on “Dave” as a nod to legendary sitcom Only Fools And Horses character Trigger, a dim-witted pal of the Trotters who struggles with names as the supporters did trying to find a song for him.
Azpilicueta’s modest exterior masks a fiercely determined man and almost indestructible athlete.
Cahill said: “You don’t last as long as he has at Chelsea without being a fantastic player.
“But also it takes more than that. It takes a mentality, a work-rate, a thick skin.
“To have one of those things is not good enough. He has them all.
“If you had 11 of him, Chelsea would win the league every year.
“When he first came through the door I was massively impressed with the way he worked.
“The way he trains is the way he plays — intense.
“It’s one of the best bits of business Chelsea have ever done.
“Everything is at 100 per cent. He never has a down day.
“One or two times you go through the motions but it is never the case with him.
“Every year at Chelsea there is massive competition but he still holds a place in the team.
“He has been pivotal to the club’s success. It’s not like he has been a squad player with one or two games. He is virtually ever-present.”
Barcelona want Azpilicueta on a three-year deal but Chelsea do have the 12-month option.
Everything is at 100 per cent. He never has a down day.
Gary Cahill on Azpilicueta
Cahill added: “If it was up to me, I would almost let him go when he is ready — if that makes sense?
“He is fit enough and more than capable of playing on and churning out a high number of appearances next season.
“When that time comes to wind down, that would be a decision for him.
“Whether he wants to go elsewhere and carry on playing, or whether he fancies a role where he doesn’t play as much.
“The impact of having somebody like him around the training ground, letting young players watch him and how to do things, in some aspects is priceless.
“Unless you have got blinkers on it’s no surprise why he has had such success.
“Eventually he won’t be happy with the number of appearances. But to have him at the club is a huge plus. I’d keep him at Chelsea.”
Cahill handed over the captain’s armband to Azpilicueta when he left Stamford Bridge for Crystal Palace in 2019.
He said: “All that responsibility. It’s not just about putting on an armband for the game.
“You have to look after the people at the training ground and make sure standards are always being maintained.
“It is a big job. He was more than ready for it.”