Chelsea have been warned that defenders even as good as Kalidou Koulibaly and Jules Kounde may be no replacements for Antonio Rudiger.
Rudiger has signed for Real Madrid after his contract with Chelsea expired. It has brought an end to five years of service at Stamford Bridge for the Germany international. He will be a tough act to follow there.
With Andreas Christensen set to leave for free too, and Cesar Azpilicueta potentially following, it doesn’t take much working out where Chelsea will mainly be investing this summer.
Their defence will be the priority area to reinforce. In that regard, their top target remains Kounde after they tried to sign him from Sevilla last summer.
Links with Koulibaly have also been ongoing recently. The Senegal international is entering the final year of his contract with Napoli, who could finally sell him to a Premier League club.
Kounde and Koulibaly are two of the best centre-backs playing in Europe. The former represents promise for the future and the latter would give guarantees thanks to his experience.
Yet according to pundit Paul Merson, even they may not be able to live up to the standards that Rudiger set this season.
Picking his player of the year for the Blues, Merson told Sportskeeda: “Antonio Rudiger’s been absolutely outstanding for Chelsea.
“I can’t remember him having a bad game if I’m being honest. He’s been consistently brilliant in the Premier League this season.
Chelsea target Kimpembe to replace Antonio Rudiger
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“Rudiger’s going to be a massive miss for Thomas Tuchel next season. He’s going to be a hard one to replace, and I’m not sure if the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly and Jules Kounde can fill his boots.
“If there is a worry for Chelsea this year, it’s finding Rudiger’s replacement.”
Replacing Rudiger tough but not impossible
The Blues are no doubt aware of the task that faces them. Yet with Todd Boehly having taken over the club, they can begin planning their next moves in the market.
Replacing Rudiger will be tough. That said, Merson isn’t necessarily right to write off players as good as Koulibaly or Kounde.
They may have no Premier League experience between them, but neither did Rudiger before he joined from Roma in 2017. What he went on to achieve could show someone else a blueprint for success.
That said, Chelsea will definitely miss him as a player and character. Their loss will be Real Madrid’s gain. It is up to Chelsea, though, to figure out how to fill the void.