That is the view of former Arsenal and England forward Paul Merson, who reckons Rudiger is the one player the Blues can’t afford to lose. Merson, a Chelsea fan, thinks the Stamford Bridge club will have a hard time replacing the Germany defender, who is leaving on a free this summer after turning down a new deal.
But he reckons current boss Thomas Tuchel is not to blame for Rudiger’s decision to quit – because it was under Lampard that things turned sour for him. Former Blues boss Lampard, now at Everton, fell out with Rudiger and then refused to pick him only for the defender to make a comeback after he was sacked.
Writing in his Daily Star column, Merson said: “Rudiger is the one player Chelsea couldn’t afford to lose, and he is risking the wrath of the fans by deciding to leave. He is turning down a lot of money and leaving them in the lurch – but let’s be honest it’s been on the cards for a long, long time. I called this one months ago. I don’t think Rudiger ever had any intention of signing. Not after he was frozen out by Frank Lampard. I know plenty has changed since then. Thomas Tuchel came in, brought him back into the team, and they won the Champions League.
“But I think he had already made his mind up. His contract was already running down and other clubs would already have been expressing an interest. You don’t wait all that time, refusing to sign, losing all that money you would have got by signing on improved terms, just to turn around and stay. It’s serious money he has turned down. He would have been the most well-paid defender in the club’s history. But he doesn’t love the club, does he? Or he’d have stayed.
“And he’s an unbelievable defender. Thiago Silva helps him, but I think he helps Thiago Silva as well. They are so good together in a three. It will be interesting to see how the fans are going to be now when he plays at Stamford Bridge. I don’t see them being too happy with him. But he is irreplaceable really. Chelsea can’t replace him. No-one has bought the club yet. They are still under sanctions. They can’t even line someone up.
“Rudiger is absolutely perfect for the way they play. He goes and squeezes players. He’s full of energy. A different class. And they say he’s a leader in the dressing room. It’s very hard to replace all that – and we don’t even know when Chelsea will be able to sign players again. Plus, who do they sign who’s anywhere near as good? It’s not a market full of world-class centre-halves. They’re a dying breed.”
Chelsea have been linked with Sevilla defender Jules Kounde and Leicester’s Wesley Fofana, but Merson reckons neither really fits the bill. He said: “Chelsea wanted Jules Kounde from Sevilla. He’s been on the radar for a long, long while. But he plays in Spanish football and that is very different to the Premier League.
“He would take time to adjust. Even though he’s a good player, he wouldn’t be able to hit the ground running. I like Wesley Fofana too at Leicester. I think he’s super talented. But his injury record isn’t great and Chelsea can’t afford to be signing players who might break down.”