Antonio Rüdiger cites a threatening distraction that few would have believed 12 months ago

This time last year, Frank Lampard and the Chelsea hierarchy would hardly have cared about three of their defense contracts expiring in 18 months.

Antonio Rüdiger had only launched one of Chelsea’s first 15 league games in the 2020/21 season, while Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta started four during this time.

Much like Marcos Alonso, the trio had fallen out of favor under Lampard, who had won a brilliant back four from Reece James, Thiago Silva, Kurt Zouma and Ben Chilwell.

Lampard had his favorites, but the results were not favorable and that led to a change in leadership that resulted in a huge change.

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In the meantime, Rüdiger has started more league games than any other defender under Tuchel, Azpilicueta is not far behind him, and with Christensen back in the squad, Chelsea suddenly has a riddle in front of them.

The trio will be able to speak to foreign clubs from January and the fact that 37-year-old Silva’s contract also expires this summer means Chelsea still have some work to do in that department.

Rüdiger is probably the main concern. The 28-year-old has turned into one of the best center-backs in the league, but the suspension of contract talks has reportedly led Real Madrid and Bayern Munich to watch the situation closely.

The German center-back is said to be on £ 90,000 a week and turned down an offer of £ 140,000 a week in August in an attempt to get closer to £ 200,000.

Rudiger, it seems, knows his worth on a Chelsea team where Timo Werner and Kai Havertz reportedly make nearly triple that, and Real are now seen as frontrunners to rid the defender from Stamford Bridge.

Pre-contract talks can begin in January, at a time as Chelsea are continuing their attack on four fronts after making progress in the EFL Cup on Wednesday night, while it will soon be five when they travel to the Club World Cup.

It could create an unwanted distraction, and while Tuchel will attempt to deal with matters in the field, this has been a regular topic he raised in recent press conferences.

“We need a little patience,” said Tuchel at the beginning of the month when asked about Rüdiger’s situation. “We absolutely accept the importance of Toni and the role he plays on and off the pitch and we are aware of it. There is no doubt about that.

“It’s true that nobody is bigger than the club, and this is a team effort and a strong club. It’s not just about Toni, and I mean that in the best sense, because we know what he’s doing and we are fully aware of it. “

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Meanwhile, Azpilicueta has been linked to a summer move to Barcelona and although that would bring the curtain to a 10-year Chelsea stint, The athlete claim he is determined to stay and fight for his place.

As for Christensen, Tuchel opted for the novel approach of ditching the Dane in order to convince him to renew his contract.

“We hope that it will affect the contract situation a little,” said Tuchel last month. “As I understand it, the club wants the same thing, the player wants the same thing, the coach wants the same thing: to stay. That’s why we need the commitment and then we can move on. “

While the uncertainty continues, the questions for Tuchel will keep cropping up, but he can only hope that director Marina Granovskaia and Co. can work behind the scenes to get the best result for everyone involved.

Losing Silva could be the most expected, although talks of another one-year extension are imminent.

While Chelsea will no doubt think of ready-made substitutes, numerous defensive departures could prove disruptive and arguably making positive contract talks a priority to ensure their promotion under Tuchel doesn’t stall.

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