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Antonio Rudiger leaving Chelsea for Real Madrid is Frank Lampard's fault, says Paul Merson

Sky Sports' Paul Merson says Chelsea are losing £70-£80m defender and will have to pay £70m for a replacement that will fail to fill Antonio Rudiger's boots; He also says Liverpool have had a "mind-blowing" season fighting on all fronts - even if they miss out to Man City


In his latest column, Paul Merson explains why Antonio Rudiger's exit from Chelsea is actually Frank Lampard's fault.

Losing Rudiger to Real Madrid is going to break Chelsea's heart - but his mind was made up 18 months ago with the way he was treated by Lampard.

He got completely binned out the team by Lampard and I think that left a lasting effect on Rudiger. That's when he decided that he's not signing a new contract.

Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger during the Carabao Cup Semi Final, second leg match at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London. Picture date: Wednesday January 12, 2022.
Image: Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger is leaving the club this summer

Years ago, if Real Madrid and Barcelona came calling then you went. I don't see that anymore. Chelsea are as good as Real Madrid, you can see that in the Champions League quarter-final. The Blues had a bad 45 minutes but apart from that, they were a far superior team to Real Madrid.

Now Chelsea are letting a £70m-80m defender go on a free transfer and they're going to bring someone in for £70m who will be nowhere as good as Rudiger.

They're going to have to strengthen in defence as Rudiger and Andreas Christensen are going to leave. I like Trevoh Chalobah but they play three at the back so they'll need to bring in another defender.

Even though Kai Havertz is Chelsea's best player with Mason Mount, and someone they can build a team around, they still need a forward.

I'm not saying it won't work with Romelu Lukaku but he needs to get it together and make his mind up that he's staying.

Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku celebrates after scoring the second penalty in the penalty shoot-out during the Carabao Cup final at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday 27th February, 2022.
Image: The agent of Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku discussed his future last week

In my opinion, his agent would never say something like what he said this week about discussing his future this summer if he hasn't been told something by Lukaku. If I had an agent and he started saying something that I never said to him, I'd be getting rid of him tomorrow morning. For me, it's an easy way for Lukaku to get something out there without him saying it himself.

He wants to be at a great club and I don't see why he can't go on and score a load of goals. But he can't have a season like he did this season for £100m.

Liverpool season has been mind-blowing

Manchester City's result at West Ham was a massive point, now they have to beat Aston Villa at home on the last day of the season - and you would take that a million times out of a million. All you have to ask for at the end of the title race is for it to be in your hands and you're at home.

That point was huge in the end, absolutely huge. For me, Manchester City win the Premier League.

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But what a race - with these two teams, it's been constant. If you drop a point, that's it. Liverpool dropped a point against Tottenham and that was good night, even with three games to go. That Tottenham game was always going to be the banana skin, they did the double over City after all.

I don't know what else Liverpool could have done. They've won two finals, they're in another final and they're going to take the Premier League season to the final game.

The hardest thing in the world is trying to win the league, it's 38 games over nine months. But to win two cup competitions, be in the title race until the final week of the season and also be in the ultimate European final, there's no better feat.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (right) and James Milner in discussion during a training session at the AXA Training Centre, Kirkby. Picture date: Monday October 18, 2021.
Image: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (right) and James Milner

To do what they've done in the league over nine months in all competitions is just mind-blowing - and they haven't got the biggest squad.

No disrespect but you're bringing on James Milner in the FA Cup final. He's 37, it's not like bringing Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva or Riyad Mahrez on. The gulf between the two squads is scary, so for Liverpool to do what they've done is even more unbelievable.

Leeds to stay up, Burnley to go down

If I had to pick which camp I'd rather be in out of the relegation candidates, it'd be Leeds because of that point against Brighton - one that I think will keep them up.

I was covering their game on Sunday and Pascal Struijk's late equaliser was a massive goal for them. They were out of it in the first half and Brighton were a much better team.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Leeds’ draw against Brighton in the Premier League.

On Thursday, Burnley go to Aston Villa who are playing their last home game of the season. You've got to give the fans optimism on the last home game so Villa will be the biggest triers in the world on Thursday night.

Steven Gerrard will not want 40,000 people leaving that ground with the attitude of next season. He will want to send those fans away with the feeling that they'll buy a new season ticket with the thought of Gerrard turning things around. That only happens if they beat Burnley.

I don't expect Burnley to get anything at Aston Villa, so it will be completely out of their hands with one game to go - which is not where you want to be. Yes, they have Newcastle at home and Leeds have Brentford away, but it should be in those two teams' hands.

I think Everton will be alright, I've seen enough from them to get something out of the next two games. They have to get something out of Crystal Palace at home and I can see that happening. Even then, you'd have to ask Burnley and Leeds to win their football matches which is a big ask, especially on the last day of the season.

Phillips and Rice could face difficult choices

If Leeds do end up going down, it'll be a hard summer for Kalvin Phillips. There will be a big conversation with Gareth Southgate, if I'm honest.

He will go to Gareth and ask, "Do I need to be playing in the Premier League to make the World Cup squad?" and I think that will be a big part of it.

I don't think Phillips is too good for Aston Villa, who have been linked with him recently. It's a massive football club and he would be playing under one of the greatest English footballers of our generation in Gerrard. So Villa would be an unbelievable move for him.

Kalvin Phillips has made 15 appearances for Leeds so far this season
Image: Kalvin Phillips could leave Leeds should they get relegated

He can't go to Manchester United because you play for Leeds, or you're a Leeds fan. That's an absolute no-go, even though Man United need him more than any player.

Will Liverpool want him? I don't think so. Will Manchester City want him? I don't think so. Maybe Chelsea, I don't know. It's not as much as a problem as moving to Manchester United.

Gareth won't need to have that conversation with Declan Rice, who is going to be in the Premier League anyway. He's going to Chelsea or Manchester United in my opinion. United need that kind of player - but he can't force a move.

If you force a move - or the agent forces the move - you're the one who has to go back and play if it doesn't work out. He has to be careful as he's a West Ham legend. And he will leave as one if he does it the right way.

Declan Rice scored West Ham's second goal of the evening
Image: Declan Rice is another England midfielder who could move on

If it starts getting messy on the way to him leaving then everything he has done for the club will go up the wall. I don't think he's someone who will want that to happen.

There is a lot of patience to be had there and he'll have to hope everyone else sorts it out and he won't get involved. If it comes to a push and you start saying that you want to leave, you don't want to be doing that as a West Ham legend. You don't want to start getting booed as a West Ham legend. I think that will be sorted out behind the scenes.

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