Chelsea ace Antonio Rudiger in the midst of a storm ahead of the Champions League quarter-final with Porto
Antonio Rudiger enters Chelsea’s biggest game of the season, positioned in front of and in the center of the storm.
You get the impression that he wouldn’t want it otherwise.
Marginalized at the start of the season, Rudiger’s career at Stamford Bridge seemed to be coming to an end.
Thomas Tuchel has harnessed Antonio Rudiger’s intensity since becoming Chelsea boss
The German’s management is put to the test by Rudiger’s fallout with Kepa Arrizabalaga
Fast forward nine months and he is one of the first names on the team magazine for Thomas Tuchel.
One of the season’s comeback stories, Rudiger’s return, was integral to Chelsea’s improvement under their recently appointed German coach.
His heated showdown with teammate Kepa Arrizabalaga on Sunday has thrown an unwanted cloud over Chelsea’s preparations for the Champions League quarter-final against Porto on Wednesday.
Tuchel sent Rudiger out of training early to calm down – though the pair would later have buried the hatchet.
Still, Tuchel may not have been totally surprised at the way things escalated. Rudiger trains as he plays – in top gear.
He wants to win, hates to lose. On the back of Chelsea’s first defeat in 15 games – a match for which Rudiger was equipped – against West Brom on Saturday, the center-back was in no mood for fun.
Of course there is always a happy medium. Nurturing a team bond remains one of the most important facets of any team sport.
But you could imagine that Tuchel would much rather have Rudiger by his side than not. He cares – maybe too much, if there is such a thing.
That should not be taken as a negative. Tuchel has been able to harness Rudiger’s intensity, to the great advantage of Chelsea.
The numbers speak for themselves. Of his 13 Premier League appearances this season, Rudiger has been on the losing side only once.
Rudiger is a rock for the Blues who has fallen out of favor under Frank Lampard
Arrizabalaga (left) and Rudiger (right) were involved in a heated collision during training on Sunday
Of those top matches he played in, Chelsea conceded only five goals.
Of his six Champions League appearances to date this season, Chelsea have conceded just once with Rudiger on the team.
Rudiger has not been on the losing side in the 11 games he has played since Tuchel arrived in January; Chelsea only conceded two goals in those games.
The 28-year-old was rested for Chelsea’s 5-2 defeat to the Baggies – Tuchel’s only loss of the 15 games he led.
The numbers are convincing. His stats are comparable to any center-back in European football.
No wonder Tuchel trusts him so much.
The central defender puts his body on the line and gives his team a competitive advantage
But amid its re-emergence as the foundation upon which Chelsea’s defense is built; there is growing uncertainty about Rudiger’s future.
The central half is entering the final 12 months of his contract, and as it stands now, the Blues are not planning to negotiate a new deal until after the European Championship, where Rudiger is expected to play a lead role for Germany.
In barely nine months Rudiger can discuss a free transfer with foreign clubs. It’s a scenario that Chelsea would of course like to avoid.
How eager he will be in the details of those long-awaited contract renewal talks remains to be seen. Money speaks of course.
But the sporty aspect will be just as intriguing. Tuchel seems to trust Rudiger and vice versa, the Chelsea head coach does not want any uncertainty about the future of his main defender on his way to the start of next season.
But agreeing a new deal doesn’t have to be that easy. Clubs across Europe will take note of Rudiger’s contractual situation, the chance to sign one of the continent’s most polished center-backs on a free transfer or bargain deal is an enticing prospect.
A successful European Championship with Germany could add another complication to Chelsea’s chances of renewing Rudiger’s contract.
Rudiger is relaxed about his contract situation, but wants to stay at Stamford Bridge
Still, Rudiger seems willing to stay at Stamford Bridge.
When asked about his future last month, he said: ‘At the end of the day, everyone, me and the club know how much I love this club, so it’s up to people who make these kinds of decisions.
‘Even at the start of the season, when things were not going well, I was always calm.
‘At the end of the day I can’t give myself a contract, I have to wait and see what happens. But I’ve always said I love it here in Chelsea. Chelsea will always be my priority. ‘
For now, Rudiger’s priority is a place in the semi-finals of the Champions League.