After a tumultuous ten days, wherein he became a central figure in Lampard’s sacking, Antonio Rüdiger had a few things he wanted to get off his chest. So he phoned up The Athletic, who duly obliged in granting him an interview. Not exactly the circumstances for a hard-hitting the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth scenario, but that’s perhaps something we shouldn’t expect — certainly not for a long while, until someone needs to make some money with a tell-all biography.
A good reminder to always keep in mind who the source may be, and what their perspective or intentions might be in talking to the media, especially when they’re the ones initiating contact.
So, what does Rüdiger want everyone to know after a series of misconstrued Twitter fabrications and half-truths were escalated into the latest bit of player power betrayal at Chelsea?
“There have been so many nonsense rumours around about me since last week. I’ve never talked with the board about the situation of the coach or on any other topics.
“Frank Lampard trusted in my abilities after Christmas in a very difficult situation and I was thankful for this. It was also the main reason I told my representatives not to look for a possible winter move anymore. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be for our team to turn things around for the coach. We always wanted the best for the manager and for the club.”
You see, it wasn’t him! (As if he’d ever admit to it, right?) And that doesn’t mean that it was someone else, either. The entire story about certain players going directly to the Chelsea Board to complain about Lampard was speculative, at best, then blown up on social media because social media is just a gateway to the downfall of western human civilization.
What Rüdiger doesn’t address include the adjacent stories of him being a bit of a bully towards younger players (though already debunked by Tammy Abraham publicly), nor the stories of captain Azpilicueta having to step in a few times to keep the peace (Captain Dave also throwing in his support publicly since). None of those stories seemed that far from the norm anyway, for better or worse — disgruntled player being disgruntled, resolved in the dressing room — and are the types of stories that get spun positively or negatively depending on results and outcomes.
Rüdier does address his commitment to the club, which, of course, is exemplary, and he doesn’t think Tuchel will succumb to favoritism, from which Toni himself would likely benefit. Obviously, duh!
“Just to make this clear: I would have stayed at Chelsea no matter the name of the manager. I was not always happy about the results, but I felt that I’m still an important part of the squad. After a difficult situation for me around autumn last year my playing time increased a lot. There was no reason to look for a new challenge for me, as I feel comfortable at the club and in London.
“I don’t think we Germans have an advantage right now, just because our coach is German. As the coach has already said, we all have to prove ourselves now and no one can be sure that he has a position in the starting line-up. The first steps with him have been quite good, but there’s still a long way to go.”
-Antonio Rüdiger; source: The Athletic
Perhaps I’m being overly cynical of this
interview PR move, which is hardly the first or the last in football media history. The claim itself is perfunctory and obvious (while the accusations were bombastic and unlikely), and at least The Athletic were transparent enough about the process, which mitigates some of the disappointment in them simply giving Rüdiger a platform without really asking the tough questions (which the player’s publicist would’ve most likely made off limits anyway).
It’s all a bit of a pantomime act anyway, football journalism.
All that said, I do hope that on the pitch, now that he’s once again in favor, Rüdiger reveals the quality Chelsea saw in him, and which prompted us to sign him back in 2017 after a couple years of chasing after him. He’s been good, but not as good as that attention had led us to believe. He’ll turn 28 next month and will be entering the final year of his Chelsea contract after the season. Lampard tried to get rid of him, David Luiz-style, unsuccessfully. Let’s see how Tuchel handles things.