Thomas Tuchel confirmed in the last few days that Antonio Rudiger has decided to leave Chelsea. The German coach said that Rudiger, who was out injured against West Ham recently, informed him of his decision in a private discussion. Tuchel also noted that the club’s sanctions prevented it from being able to compete for the defender’s signature any longer.
The Blues are believed to have made an offer to Rudiger before sanctions were in place. However, these limitations prevented them from agreeing to a new deal with the German international in the meantime. All of this means that this summer will bring an end to Rudiger’s Chelsea tenure after five years with the team. He’s been a hugely important figure for the club over the last two seasons, and now he’ll need replacing. Rudiger joins Andreas Christensen as the latest names to depart on a free when the summer window opens up.
Josko Gvardiol is one of the many centerbacks linked to Chelsea, but who is he?
Tuchel recently said this about his departing superstar:
“He is a key figure and will stay that way until the end of the season. But it is disappointing. We will miss him a lot. He gives courage in the dressing room. The kind everyone is afraid of, but the kind to play 50-55 games at an outstanding level. He is a top defender in the last one and a half years for me. We then need to find another solution. ”
Rudiger’s departure is one that will certainly create a hole in the team and in the long run, he will be hard to replace. A couple of players have been rumored to be in line to come in and fill the void left by the energetic German in the summer window. This list includes several high profile names such as Sevilla’s Jules Kounde, Paris Saint-Germain’s Presnel Kimpembe, RB Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol and even on loan star, Levi Colwill. All of these names seem relatively familiar aside from the recruit from Rudiger’s birth country, so who is Leipzig rising star, Gvardiol?
Gvardiol initially enjoyed basketball as youth, but he has since discovered that his prowess lies elsewhere within the sports world. He possesses the perfect combination of pace, strength and technical ability to excel in the footballing realm. The 20-year-old started his career at Croatian side NK Tresnjevka before being snapped up by the Dinamo Zagreb youth system in September 2010. After more than nine years of perfecting his trade in the youth system in the Croatian capital, the centrehalf made his debut for the first team in 2019.
He made 52 appearances for the Croatian-based team before being scooped up for a fee of around £ 17 million in the summer of 2021 by Leipzig. Gvardiol has made 43 appearances so far for the Bundesliga side, and he was only signed last season. As a result of his impressive performances early on in the German top flight, Chelsea may have to double the £ 17 million fee to bring the defender to Stamford Bridge this summer.
Transfermarkt values Mateo Kovacic’s Croatian teammate at £ 27 million, with the player under contract until 2026. So far, he has made 10 appearances for his national team and even grabbed a goal in the process. It’s no wonder Tuchel is a big fan of the budding star.
His defensive stats this season display why he is rated so highly and it speaks no less of the reputation he is building around Europe. As per fbref, Gvardiol ranks highly amongst other Bundesliga defenders when it comes to pressures applied per game (11.78), coupled with a few other metrics. These include tackles per 90 (2.07), interceptions per 90 (3.34) and successful blocks per 90 (2.07). Where he does not rank too well against the likes of Niklas Sule and Dayot Uppamecano comes in the form of clearances per 90 (2.90) and aerials won per 90 (2.49).
Kounde looks like the Blues’ No. 1 target right now and he does not have the best aerial ability either. This — coupled with limitations as regards his height and a potential pairing with the subject of this article — leaves some concern to Chelsea fans who will definitely be ask questions about the quality of the defense in defending set pieces following the exit of two experienced and quality defenders in Christensen and Rudiger. The Blues are looking to build a team for the future and with these kind of stats amassed, the Croatian centerhalf should definitely fit the bill.
Do you think Chelsea will be able to secure the signature of another Leipzig star? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter!