Football Features

Why are Chelsea selling Antonio Rudiger and who should sign him?

By Harry Edwards

Published: 15:14, 25 September 2020

In a surprise to some, German centre-back Antonio Rudiger is being linked with a move away from Chelsea.

The 27-year-old was one of Chelsea’s first-choice centre-backs last season when fit, starting 25 of the 32 games he was available for in Frank Lampard’s first season in charge at Stamford Bridge. Rudiger is also said, seriously or not, to have influenced the arrivals of compatriots Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, having played with the former at Stuttgart.

But his own time at Chelsea appears to be up. Rudiger was an unused substitute in the opening Premier League game against Brighton and did not even make the bench in Chelsea’s next two games, against Liverpool and Barnsley. Sportsmail claims Lampard is unhappy with Rudiger over mistakes made last season against West Ham and Arsenal (in the FA Cup final) and his lack of consistency in the team due to knee injuries. According to Transfermarkt, he has missed 24 games and 191 days through fitness issues over the last two seasons.

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And so with the arrival of Thiago Silva and recent performances of Fikayo Tomori, himself recently linked with an exit, Rudiger appears to be Chelsea’s fifth-choice centre-back, behind Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen.

There’s no denying that Rudiger is a highly capable ball-playing centre-back, particularly when attempting to create chances from the back or relieve pressure on the defence without handing the ball straight back to the opposition. Very few regularly starting Premier League centre-backs have demonstrated superior passing output, range and accuracy to Rudiger over the last three years. A season spent playing in Maurizio Sarri’s more conservative interpretation of a possession-heavy system will do wonders for those kind of metrics, but Rudiger’s experience in this environment would probably serve to increase his appeal to big clubs who more commonly dominate games.

He is also very vocal on the pitch and shows signs of leadership that Chelsea have been largely missing since John Terry and Gary Cahill left. But, at 6ft3, there is a sense Rudiger could be more aerially dominant. And then there’s his injury record and the aforementioned mistakes to help explain his current status.

Antonio Rudiger stats

If Lampard’s actions didn’t speak loudly enough, he more or less admitted Rudiger and midfield teammate Ruben Loftus-Cheek could leave when asked about why they weren’t in the League Cup squad on Wednesday.

So, where will Rudiger go next? The German, who Chelsea signed in 2017 for £29m, already has a number of potential suitors including some of Europe’s top clubs. But with just over a week remaining in the summer transfer window, Chelsea may have to settle on a loan move for the German, before selling him permanently. So, who are the options?

  • Dream: Barcelona. According to Kicker, Ronald Koeman is eager to make Rudiger part of his defence, where the German’s ball-playing abilities would fit right in.
  • Realistic: PSG. The French champions are looking for a new centre-back to add to their ranks after Thiago Silva left for Chelsea in the summer, though are reportedly only eyeing a loan (which Chelsea are against).
  • Wildcard: West Ham. Staying in the Premier League, there are minor whispers of a move to West Ham, which Chelsea could potentially use as leverage in any bid to sign Declan Rice.
  • Squawka Suggests: Roma. Kicker are also reporting Rudiger’s former club are interesting in signing the German, which would allow him to return to the club at which he built his reputation.