In Focus: Chelsea must resolve contract talks or face Rud awakening

Matthew Hill
Antonio Rudiger (left) has seen his contract extension talks with Chelsea stall
Antonio Rudiger (left) has seen his contract extension talks with Chelsea stall

Antonio Rudiger could not force his way into Chelsea’s starting XI 12 months ago — now the Blues are sweating over his future.

The German international has been one of the pillars of Thomas Tuchel’s defence during his impressive reign at Stamford Bridge but with his contract up at the end of 2021-22, interest in his services is rife.

As links to several of Europe's big guns persist, we take a closer look at the 28-year-old’s situation ahead of Die Mannschaft's Friday clash with Romania.

A man in demand

Since breaking back into the Chelsea fold under Tuchel, Rudiger’s performances have been nothing short of outstanding.

What has perhaps been most impressive is the variety of skills that the stopper brings to the table for the Blues — showing dominant physicality but also a capability to play progressively.

Compared against his fellow central defenders across the last two campaigns, Rudiger ranks inside the Premier League’s top five for both least shots conceded inside the box and aerial duels won.

But while many ‘old-fashioned’ defenders would see winning individual battles as their sole objective, Chelsea’s No2 has a creative side too.

His passing statistics, both attempted and completed, pit him inside the division’s top 10 central defenders while his average of 84.73 touches per 90 minutes since the start of 2020-21 also places him in elite company.

Whatever the task, Rudiger has shown himself up to the job.

Contract situation

Despite being physically imposing, Antonio Rudiger's touch map is also that of a progressive defender
Despite being physically imposing, Antonio Rudiger's touch map is also that of a progressive defender

It is little wonder then that the vultures are circling as Rudiger's current contract in West London creeps into its final nine months.

What is more, reports this week have even suggested that talks between player and club are ‘on hold’ after the German was left disappointed by the Blues’ opening offer.

With Rudiger supposedly now happy to shelve discussions until January at the earliest, Real Madrid, Juventus and Bayern Munich are all said to be considering tabling packages of their own.

It is the latter who could be of particular interest to former Bundesliga star Rudiger, who gave a far from conclusive answer when questioned on his recent links with the Bavarian giants.

Rudiger told Sky Germany this week: "It honours you. But I don't allow myself to be distracted too much myself because I have certain obligations to my club and that means performing. 

"But it also shows that you have done a lot right in the past few months and years."

High figures

Rudiger is reported to have demanded an eye-watering £450,000-per-week in his initial negotiations — £50k more than Chelsea’s current top-earner Romelu Lukaku.

For all he has achieved in the last 10 months, it seems unlikely that club officials would be willing to hand him such a wage, largely for fear of setting a precedent to his team-mates.

However, the Blues will have to offer a significant increase on the defensive rock's current £130k-a-week deal if they are to avoid spending next summer searching for his replacement.

Despite all of the speculation surrounding his future, Rudiger insists that he remains focussed on the more immediate future and helping his current employers through another successful campaign.

Rudiger said this week: "For me, this will be the most important decision of my professional career, so I won’t rush anything. 

"Personally, I haven’t spoken to any club other than Chelsea yet."


Thomas Tuchel has made no secret of his desire to see Antonio Rudiger stay at Chelsea
Thomas Tuchel has made no secret of his desire to see Antonio Rudiger stay at Chelsea

When a club has the spending power of the Blues, going out and buying a direct replacement is often the easiest way to deal with an unsettled star.

But even before entering the market, Tuchel is not exactly short of quality in his central defensive ranks.

Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva and Cesar Azpilicueta are all capable of operating in the middle of his preferred back three, with youngsters Trevoh Chalobah and Malang Sarr also waiting in the wings with huge potential.

Then there would be the usual plethora of talent available from other clubs, with the Blues able to utilise their financial muscle and huge pulling power to attract the game’s most promising talents.

However, there can be no debating that Rudiger has made himself an extremely difficult man to upgrade upon.

Name-checked by Liverpool colossus Virgil van Dijk in a recent interview as being among the English top flight’s best defenders, it is clear that even his fellow pros now consider him among the elite in his position.

Tuchel’s man

Whatever happens in the coming months, it is clear how the Chelsea boss feels about his star defender.

Tuchel said of the contract talks: "I hope that they find solutions, but it’s not only between coaches and players and what we wish for — it’s between the club, the players and the agent at the moment.

"We hope that they find the solution because he plays excellent and for a long time very consistent, on a very high level.

"Sometimes it needs a bit longer, sometimes things are very fast. There’s no news from my side, and I think that Toni feels very, very good at Chelsea."

Having helped his countryman lead the Blues to European glory in 2020-21, Rudiger would undoubtedly be open to adding some extra chapters of his Stamford Bridge story.

Yet if player and club cannot find a financial resolution soon, the German star will soon be facing a plot twist.


ChelseaPremier LeagueGermanyAntonio Ruediger

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