Rio Ferdinand believes Antonio Rudiger has been the best centre-back in the Premier League since Thomas Tuchel took over at Chelsea.
The former Manchester United and England defender has placed Rudiger above the likes of Harry Maguire, Ruben Dias and Virgil van Dijk on current form.
Since Tuchel succeeded Frank Lampard in the Chelsea dugout, Rudiger has exuded confidence and been an integral part of their recent successes, including the club’s Champions League win over Manchester City, in which the Blues kept a clean sheet, and their Super Cup triumph over Villarreal.
The German defender ultimately scored Chelsea’s sixth and what turned out to be the winning penalty in the shootout victory over Villarreal, and he recently bagged another vitally important goal at the weekend in the 3-0 win over Tottenham to keep Tuchel’s side atop the Premier League table.
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The three points were well and truly wrapped up by the time Rudiger executed his coup de grace in the 92nd minute, a cultured finish into the bottom corner, but that strike not only put the gloss on an emphatic triumph over a bitter London rival, but it also kept Chelsea above Liverpool in the table.
There was a time when Rudiger’s career looked in flux under Lampard, with Ferdinand believing his ‘confidence took a beating’ under his former England team-mate, but the narrative has since shifted, and he is now operating at a level that exceeds the quality of Dias and Van Dijk.
Ferdinand told his FIVE YouTube channel: “Since Tuchel has come I think he’s arguably been the best centre-back. I think him and Dias would have been close but the effect he has had on his team has been immense.
“Under Frank [Lampard], it was evident he wasn’t Frank’s cup of tea. He didn’t really like him. There were rumours they were trying to put him in the market to be sold.
“In Germany, he’s always been highly thought of. But when the manager doesn’t rate you and you can feel that, I don’t care who you are your confidence takes a beating and it’s hard to perform at that level.”
Rudiger’s resurgence at Stamford Bridge has culminated in the hard-nosed centre-back now being one of the first names on Tuchel’s team-sheet, but the 28-year-old is currently in the final year of his contract and there has been no agreement in place, as of yet, for an extension.
The 47-capped Germany international has drawn attention from the likes of Real Madrid (who lost Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane in the summer) as well as perennial spenders Paris Saint-Germain, but Tuchel himself has addressed the situation and would like a resolution to be established soon.
“I hope that they find solutions, but it’s not only between coaches and players, and what we wish for and that’s why it’s between the club, the players and the agent at the moment,” Tuchel said.
“We hope that they find the solution and everything I can say, he plays excellent, and since a long time very consistent, on a very high level.
“I feel him very calm and focused, and it’s not a distraction for him. So everything is in place, and give things the time they need. Sometimes it needs a bit longer, sometimes things are very fast.
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“There’s no news from my side, and I think that Toni feels very, very good at Chelsea, he feels very respected by his team-mates and he feels the importance that he has in the team and in the squad.
“That’s well deserved because he delivers, he feels the love from the supporters when he plays. He’s in the strongest league in Europe, in a big club, so not many reasons to change that.”