Premier League • England

‘Real pity’ – Prem legend warns Chelsea of potential cost in losing star player

Antonio Rudiger Chelsea

A Premier League legend has told Chelsea to finalise contract negotiations with a first-team star, or risk a significant transfer outlay.

The Blues are top of the Premier League as things stand, with a three-point lead on second-placed Man City. They are firmly in the running to lift their first league title since 2016-17, when Tottenham boss Antonio Conte was in charge.

While Chelsea are performing well on the pitch, there are growing concerns appearing behind the scenes. Club chief Marina Granovskaia is busy trying to tie down a number of key players, to prevent them leaving Stamford Bridge for free in June.

Among them is Danish centre-back Andreas Christensen. Numerous reports have suggested the two parties are close to an agreement, only for them to fall through each time.

Atletico are monitoring the defender’s situation and could swoop in next summer if terms cannot be agreed.

Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta is in a similar predicament. He is keen to extend his spell in west London but is yet to pen a new contract. Like Christensen, the Spaniard is on Xavi’s transfer wish list at Barcelona.

Arguably the most important contract to sort out is that of Antonio Rudiger. The Germany international has become one of Europe’s best defenders since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival in January.

He is making a habit of bullying opposition defenders – both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Harry Kane have been unable to score against the Blues this season, partly down to Rudiger’s brilliance.

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Rudiger is thought to have been insulted by Chelsea’s latest contract offer. The two-time Champions League winners are yet to match his €12m-per-year demands.

Former Arsenal and Chelsea star Petit has now weighed in on the debacle. “If he leaves, it would be a real pity for Chelsea,” he said (via Express).

“If I remember correctly before Tuchel came in he was on the bench and wasn’t playing. Now he looks like one of the best defenders around.

“He could leave on a free and Chelsea would have to spend a minimum of £30million to find a new defender of his level, and there’s never a guarantee a buy will work out. If he asks for two more years, just give him the money.”

Petit makes Rudiger-Keown comparison

Petit went on to compare Rudiger with one of his former Arsenal team-mates. “He reminds me of the crazy defenders I used to play with back in the day, like Martin Keown.

“Those types of guys were always really tough on other players, and playing against them was both a physical and mental battle because they could make you feel bad on the pitch.

“I think Rudiger is similar, and it must be very tough to be on the pitch with him because you can disappear very quickly. He always plays the ball but he also plays the players and strikers know that and it can be intimidating.

“Sometimes he tries to destroy strikers, and I don’t really like that side of his game. But for me, the priority of a defender is to scare strikers.

“People might not understand that but it’s true, you have to scare them to try and stop them from scoring goals. For me, Rudiger is one of the hardest defenders in the world.”

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