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Rüdiger keeps Hazard on his toes; hangs out with LeBron

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That time Hazard took a swing at tough-guy Rüdiger, and it was a good thing

Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images

Four straight wins, a new coach who has relaxed the rules, and a fun style of football that maximizes skill players’ time on the ball, all factors that are combining to send morale soaring in a squad that was down and disintegrating by the end of last season despite an FA Cup triumph.

One player that seems to be enjoying the most out of the newly informal atmosphere is Antonio Rüdiger. In the Chelsea FC website’s new feature “Lifting the Lid”, in which a player answers a series of light-hearted questions, Victor Moses name-checked Rüdiger as being both the loudest player in the dressing room, and one of the two biggest jokers (along with David Luiz).

That helps explain this little piece of video from Saturday’s game against Bournemouth. If this had happened at the end of last season, we might be asking why Eden Hazard appeared to take a swing at Rüdiger while celebrating his game-clinching goal. But this season, there’s little question about what’s going on. All in all, an appropriate answer to Rüdi’s head bop / ear flick (tough to tell which one exactly).

It’s just a latest evidence of the players are enjoying themselves under Maurizio Sari’s benevolent regime. Rüdi is often front and center in all that. Here are some good times from the training ground, for example. If you look closely — around the 1:40-mark — you’ll see Rüdiger mobbed at the end of the rondo session (with Eden, of course, highly involved). Toni’s clearly a well loved teammate.

Another example, here’s Big Rüdi, the loudest, funniest and most loving man of the squad, giving tiny Gianfranco Zola a bear-hug after the final whistle in our 2-0 win over Bournemouth at the Bridge last weekend.

And Toni’s awesomeness cannot just be contained to Chelsea. Here he is hanging out with some basketball player. Apparently, he’s a bit of a big deal. Lebron, too, we understand.

Chelsea are in search of a new captain, and while Rüdiger is not under official consideration, the squad needs all sorts of leaders. Toni, with his influence growing on and off the pitch, should be a key presence for years to come in every respect.