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Chelsea have told young defender Dujon Sterling he will be needed in the first team this summer as the club look to cope with the departure of Antonio Rudiger, according to reports.
Thomas Tuchel confirmed on Sunday that Rudiger had decided to leave the west London club at the end of the season when his contract expires, with sanctions preventing Chelsea from increasing their £230,000-a-week salary offer.
The German centre-back is expected to sign a deal with Real Madrid, while fellow contract rebel Andreas Christensen could also be joining him in Spain and is believed to have agreed terms with Barcelona.
With Cesar Azpilicueta’s future also up in the air, Chelsea suddenly have something of a crisis in defence and are in serious need of reinforcements at the back.
While Tuchel is thought to be keen to bring in a new centre-back when the transfer window opens, the Chelsea boss will also be expected to look at some of the club’s many talented young defenders to bolster his back-line.
According to Goal.com, Sterling – who had been on loan at Blackpool until his season was ended by injury – has already been informed that he will be part of pre-season training and it is hoped he can help solve the problem of life after Rudiger.
While the 22-year-old – who predominantly plays at full-back – will not be a direct replacement for Rudiger, it is hoped he can compete for the right wing-back role and allow Reece James to line up on the right of a back three on a more regular basis.
Sterling, who is highly regarded by Tuchel, received plenty of plaudits during his time on loan in the Championship and Blackpool boss Neil Critchley has given glowing feedback to Chelsea’s hierarchy.
Another Chelsea academy graduate, teenager Levi Colwill, has also been impressing in the Championship with promotion-chasing Huddersfield Town and could be an option for Chelsea in central defence too.
Tuchel knows Rudiger’s departure will be a massive blow, however, and is not keen to simply rely on the academy with a new, senior left-sided centre-back one of his top transfer priorities.
That could see the Blues move away from previous defensive targets such as Jules Kounde and switch their focus to the likes of Villarreal star Pau Torres or young Croatian left-sided centre-back Josko Gvardiol, who plays for RB Leipzig.
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