Almost all Chelsea fans, including myself, seem to be missing Antonio Rüdiger very much who left for Real Madrid on a free transfer. For me, Rüdiger is a Stamford Bridge thug whose existence is very central in the heart of Chelsea’s defence. Since being handled by Thomas Tuchel, Rüdiger has transformed into a formidable defender who is irreplaceable throughout the season. His crucial tackle in the 2020/21 Champions League final against Manchester City will be remembered forever.
Rüdiger was bought by Chelsea from AS Roma for a fee of £34 million (Rp588.7 billion) on 9 July 2017 during Antonio Conte’s tenure. At AS Roma he managed to make 36 appearances by scoring 1 goal and 4 assists (data transfermrkt) since being officially recruited from VfB Stuttgart in the 2016/17 season.
With Chelsea, Rudiger has played 202 times in all competitions. He managed to present five prestigious titles for Chelsea; FA Cup (2017/18 season), Europa League (2018/19), Champions League (2020/21), UEFA Super Cup (2020/21) and FIFA Club World Cup (2020/21). He has tasted being coached by Antonio Conte, Maurizio Sarri, Frank Lampard, to Thomas Tuchel in the era of Roman Abramovich’s ownership.
Rudiger made his last appearance for Chelsea when he et al. entertained Watford at Stamford Bridge with a 2-1 win that managed to put the Blues in third place with 74 points behind Manchester City and Liverpool.
Rudiger’s departure to Real Madrid is certainly a big influence on the depth of the Chelsea squad in defense. The reason is, the role of Rudiger in the last season is very vital. Apart from being able to protect his team from the opponent’s onslaught before heading to Edouard Mendy’s goal, it is not uncommon for Rüdiger to be needed to “scare” the opponent with his fierce appearance like a thug.
In an interview with journalists, Thomas Tuchel also praised the figure of Rüdiger who can make a difference when he is on the field. He said Rudiger has a great personality, a great leader, can take away the fear of others, and gives confidence to the players (Chelsea) when they are on the pitch. In other words, with Rüdiger on the pitch, his team-mates will feel much more “safe”.
In addition to his personality that can have a big influence, Rüdiger also sometimes misbehaves with opponents on the field and spectators in the stands which sometimes invites laughter or even provokes opponents a bit even though this is something that is not uncommon in football. However, Rudiger is actually a very friendly player when off the field.
Rüdiger’s career at Chelsea didn’t last forever. When he was coached by Thomas Tuchel, he was trusted to maintain Chelsea’s defense in every game as a central defender in a partnership with Thiago Silva, whose role is also irreplaceable. However, in the 2020/21 season when Chelsea was still being coached by club legend Frank Lampard, Rudiger was actually often left on the bench. At that time, Lampard preferred Fikayo Tomori to fill the central defender slot.
There were also rumors that Rüdiger had a feud with Lampard before the news was dismissed by Rüdiger. But Lampard has his own reasons why he often reserves Rudiger. He argued that Fikayo Tomori was a player he knew better since they worked together as coach and player at Derby County in the 2018/19 season. According to him, it is very difficult to determine who will start when there is a choice of great players like Rüdiger and Christensen.
Apart from the sanctions problem that hit Chelsea at the time, actually Rudiger’s move to Real Madrid was actually due to Chelsea’s rather long-winded side. Rüdiger himself explained the reason that he had been patiently waiting for news of a new contract from Chelsea before there was an offer from Real Madrid as a big club so he had to make a decision immediately.
But whatever the reason, Rudiger said it was very difficult for him to leave Chelsea. Chelsea is already in his heart. In fact, he said, he went to Stamford Bridge alone. However, now he has a beautiful wife and two children. All that he found in London, a city he will never forget.
Rudiger really loves Chelsea. Rüdiger is a man deeply loved by his team-mates, the Stamford Bridge public and Chelsea fans around the world. Thank you Rudiger, the Stamford Bridge thug, the Cobham thug, for giving everything for Chelsea. You will remain blue and in our hearts, wherever you are. Good luck, have a good time and success at the Bernabéu!
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