Antonio Rüdiger, perhaps Chelsea’s best defender by the end of the season that he started as our fifth choice of five center backs, is “no closer to agreeing a new contract” and is “considering leaving as a free agent next summer”, according to The Athletic’s breathless reporting today.
But while that’s technically true, it’s also a fair bit disingenuous, especially as a lede and a headline — even by headline standards.
Rüdiger has made it quite clear that he won’t talk about a new contract with Chelsea until after the European Championships are done this summer — the Athletic themselves reported and “confirmed” this a couple months ago, even! If Germany make the final, this won’t be until mid-to-late July at the earliest.
So yes, Rüdiger is no closer a new contract. He’s also no closer to not signing a new contract. He’s no closer to any decision, just as intended.
That said, once time does come for said discussions, there will be plenty of things to consider, and for either side. We’ve had several reports in the past weeks and months along the lines of Rüdiger being “hesitant” to commit, both due to the managerial churn and his own unstable situation (after all, Lampard wanted him gone just twelve months ago). It’s also probably his last big contract at age 28, and he reportedly wants four years and a wage rise. He may be “happy at Chelsea” and Tuchel may be happy with him, some have even suggested that an extension will be a formality especially after Tuchel’s own, but those can be fleeting feelings.
For Chelsea, the decisions are even more complicated. Rüdiger has one year left on his contract, just like all the other center backs on the team not named Kurt Zouma. We can include César Azpilicueta on that list as well. And Zouma’s the one who’s bottom of the pecking order right now! This is the perfect time to begin a defensive overhaul — just as indicated and intended twelve months ago when Silva was a stopgap. Whether that includes transfers, signings, or loanees, and in what combination, will determine just how well we actually build on this year’s successes.
So, Rüdiger no closer to contract? What if the contract is no closer to him? I guess we’ll find out after the Euros. Just as intended.