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Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson blamed Antonio Rudiger’s departure from Chelsea on former manager Frank Lampard.
The German centre-back is all set to join Real Madrid on a free transfer this summer after his contract with the Blues is up. Signed from AS Roma in 2017, Rudiger was frozen out by Lampard when he was in charge of the club and risked seeing his career go awry.
However, Thomas Tuchel’s arrival last January sparked his revival as the defender was once again a regular starter and returned to his best. However, Rudiger, whose contract is up next month, rejected a new proposal by Chelsea to become their highest-paid player in search of pastures anew.
Merson believes the German is still affected by Lampard’s treatment of him at the club. In his latest column for Sky Sports, the 54-year-old wrote:
“Losing Antonio Rudiger to Real Madrid is going to break Chelsea’s heart – but his mind was made up 18 months ago with the way he was treated by Frank Lampard. He got completely binned out the team by Lampard, and I think that left a lasting effect on Rudiger. That’s when he decided that he’s not signing a new contract.”
Rudiger has signed a lucrative four-year deal with Real Madrid, where he’s expected to earn €9-10 million net per year.
Tuchel wanted him to stay at Stamford Bridge but admitted that the sanctions placed on the club have played a big part in facilitating his departure. Rudiger has clocked 201 appearances for Chelsea across competitions, including 52 this season. He has scored 12 goals and won five trophies, including last season’s UEFA Champions League.
Chelsea to make defensive reinforcements
The Blues will lose Rudiger and Andreas Christensen, who’s joining Barcelona on a free transfer, so new signings are expected in defence.
However, Merson fears incoming players might be nowhere near as good, saying:
“Chelsea are letting a £70m-80m defender go on a free transfer, and they’re going to bring someone in for £70m in that will be nowhere as good as Rudiger. They’re going to have to strengthen in defence, as Rudiger and Andreas Christensen are going to leave. I like Trevoh Chalobah, but they play three at the back, so they’ll need to bring in another defender.”
The Blues play their penultimate Premier League game of the season at home on Thursday against Leicester City before playing Watford on the final day (May 22). A win in their two remaining games will confirm a top-three finish.
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