Antonio Rudiger has decided to leave Chelsea at the end of the season, with the defender set to join Real Madrid this summer on a free transfer; watch Manchester United vs Chelsea live on Thursday on Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event from 7pm; kick-off 7.45pm
Tuesday 26 April 2022 23:59, UK
Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger is close to agreeing a four-year deal with Real Madrid that will make him one of the highest-paid defenders in the world.
Rudiger's Chelsea deal expires at the end of the season, and Blues boss Thomas Tuchel revealed at the weekend his fellow German had decided to reject a new deal at Stamford Bridge and join a new club.
Rudiger is thought to be flattered and impressed by Real's pursuit. The Spanish giants were the first club to formally express an interest in signing him this summer.
A number of clubs across Europe - including in the Premier League - remain interested in Rudiger but, while talks with Real are ongoing, he is set to move to the Bernabeu.
Rudiger's representatives held talks with Barcelona last month, while he has also been linked with Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus.
John Terry, the former Chelsea captain, expressed his disappointment at Rudiger's impending exit last week. Replying to Sky Sports' Instagram post regarding the Germany international, Terry wrote: "How have we let this man go?"
Remaining at Chelsea was a possibility for Rudiger, but the sanctions placed on the club's owner Roman Abramovich made talks over extending the 29-year-old's deal impossible.
The European champions have been unable to negotiate transfers or contract extensions since March.
Tuchel confirmed Rudiger's decision to leave Chelsea following their 1-0 win over West Ham on Sunday.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Tuchel said: "The situation is that he wants to leave the club. He informed me of this in a private talk.
"We gave everything - me and the club - but we could not fight anymore because of the actions. Without the sanctions we would at least be able to carry on fighting, but our hands are tied. We don't take it personally. It is his decision.
"He is a key figure and will stay that way until the end of the season. But it is disappointing. We will miss him a lot.
"He gives courage in the dressing room. The kind everyone is afraid of, but the kind to play 50-55 games at an outstanding level. He is a top defender in the last one-and-a-half years for me. We then need to find another solution."
Pressed on whether Chelsea will be able to replace Rudiger, Tuchel said: "In the moment not, because of the sanctions. Hopefully the sanctions will be the past.
"We had a connection from day one and he deserves my full support. I'm just happy to have had the chance to coach him in the team and the club did as well. We had offers, big offers and the club tried everything but we cannot fight anymore. We have the sanctions, we can't continue. It is what it is.
"It would be ideal [for sanctions to be lifted before the transfer window] but even if we wish for it, you can't pull grass for it to grow faster. We have to deal with what the reality is. The sanctions are still in place and the situation is not cleared for next season. We try to focus on the last weeks."
Jorginho has told Sky Sports News that Chelsea will miss Rudiger ahead of his expected departure this summer.
Rudiger has been a key part of Chelsea's success in recent seasons having won five trophies with the club, including last year's Champions League.
Jorginho admits the centre-back will be a big loss for the team, saying: "He's been here a long time so if he leaves then we're going to miss him.
"He's a big personality and he's helped us a lot. We've had amazing times here; he's a good friend of mine and of course if he leaves everyone at the club will miss him, not just me."
Asked what he will miss the most about Rudiger, the 30-year-old laughed: "His craziness. He makes me laugh a lot; all of his jokes and laughs we've had together - that's the nice part."
Jules Kounde has paved the way for a move to Chelsea this summer by telling Sevilla he remains determined to leave the Spanish club, the PA news agency understands.
France defender Kounde saw a long-mooted transfer to Chelsea fall apart last summer, after Sevilla refused to let the highly-rated centre-back leave for less than his £68.5m (€80m) release clause.
Chelsea thought they had a deal wrapped up, only for Sevilla to dig in at the last with the switch falling through just before the summer's transfer window closed.
But with Chelsea also set to lose centre-back Andreas Christensen this summer on a free transfer, with Barcelona looking a likely destination for the Dane, the Blues will be in the market for central defenders.
Chelsea cannot make any new signings or complete fresh contract terms with existing players under the club's UK government sanctions.
The club's sale should be completed next month however, allowing Chelsea bosses to revert to business as usual.
Chelsea have lost clear ground in the transfer market due to the club's licensing constraints as a result of the sanctions on owner Roman Abramovich.
But Stamford Bridge chiefs still hope to be able to compete in the summer's transfer window, leaving Kounde among the club's top targets.
Chelsea have never let their interest in the nine-cap France defender wane and will be expected to step up efforts to recruit the 23-year-old once the club's sale is complete.
Analysis from Sky Sports' Sam Blitz
News that Rudiger is leaving Chelsea is far from a shock. This was not a bolt out of the blue for Blues boss Tuchel.
Sky Sports News has been reporting since the turn of the year that the German defender has been speaking to other clubs, including the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, over a pre-contract agreement which would result in a free transfer.
The problem Tuchel now faces is how to replace his compatriot - if he can. There's a race against time for Chelsea to officially complete their takeover by the time the summer transfer window starts. New owners need to be decided, government approval is needed, and that's before the conversation about what funds are available even begins.
Finding a player that can match Rudiger's standards over the last 18 months will not be easy.
The centre-back was brought back into the Chelsea starting line-up when Tuchel arrived at Stamford Bridge in January 2021, after enduring a fraught relationship with former boss Frank Lampard - who even went as far as to exile him.
Since Rudiger came back into the fold, Chelsea have won the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup, victories they owe in no small part to defensive solidity.
The security Rudiger provides is evidenced by the statistic that Chelsea have conceded twice as many goals (1.4) with him out of the team, compared to when he plays (0.7).
Against West Ham on Sunday, Tuchel's Chelsea restricted their opponents to zero shots on target in the game - but that does not tell the whole story.
Centre-backs Cesar Azpilicueta and Trevoh Chalobah - both used in a makeshift back three after Andreas Christensen was injured in the warm-up - looked sloppy in possession in defensive transitions.
Both had their pockets picked by Said Benrahma in the space of a matter of moments, and only defensive astuteness from goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and Thiago Silva bailed the pair out. How long the latter - 37 years of age - can go on will be a concern, although there are few signs of his powers diminishing.
Tuchel summed up the hole Rudiger will leave behind: "It will be incredibly difficult because Toni is what he is: a big personality, a big leader. He takes fear away and gives confidence when he's next to you, and between 50 or 60 matches [he plays] with an incredible level of consistency."