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Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger making his biggest gamble yet

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Some Chelsea players just take bigger risks than others. Half a manager’s job, tactically, is minimizing those risks for his players while maximizing those risks for the opposition. But some risks even a manager can’t get a hold of.

Antonio Rudiger is used to gambling as he partakes in some dark arts or a risky tackle. His contract situation at Chelsea is his biggest gamble yet. This isn’t him sneaking in something that riles the opponent up when the ref isn’t looking. This isn’t him bombarding forward to win the ball or drive it forward. This is the career gamble.

Players know when they start approaching their late 20s that they have one big move left in them. Contracts are generally four to five years at a minimum and any contract that goes into the 30s is sure to be the biggest one of all. Wherever a player has that contract is likely where they will retire or be the pinnacle of their career. And some players want that choice.

Rudiger knows if he extends with Chelsea, that’ll surely be that. Chelsea will be his final big club. And regardless of where one stands on the current rumors, the fact of the matter is that the sun is getting real low and the contract needs to be signed by January at the latest. After that Chelsea can’t stop him from signing a precontract for another club.

Basically, this all comes down to a few things. Rudiger wants his last move to be a well paying one, just like every player has a right to. But at the same time, he wants the choice to be his own and not the club’s choice to transfer list him or not. He already seemed close to leaving just a year ago under Frank Lampard, so it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that he doesn’t feel as wanted at Chelsea as he once did. He also should have little concern about no move materializing then, as it is much easier for clubs to be interested in a player without a transfer fee than having to negotiate through one.

That’s all from Rudiger’s point of view though, what of Chelsea? The Blues would surely like to keep Rudiger around in the form he’s been in since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival. At this point, a transfer fee isn’t happening so it is a matter of offering Rudiger enough to keep him around or losing him. There isn’t an in between.

Though Rudiger has been fantastic for the Blues, he can also be a source of contention. He’s played well before and then fallen off for Chelsea. Also, he has shown he works much better in a back three than he did in a back four. It’s simply hard to control his forward approach without the coverage that a back three provides. He’s much like David Luiz in that sense, but does Chelsea really want to be welded to a system or shape based on a player or two?

So, the gamble happens. Rudiger is holding out for a contract from Chelsea that is too good to refuse, as he’s absolutely right to do with his career. If that doesn’t happen, he knows his form of the last year will bring him plenty of suitors. Chelsea, meanwhile, would prefer to keep Rudiger but at a reasonable wage given his overall history. If he does leave, it will be a blow but not a crippling one. It all comes down to what Rudiger decides to do with what Chelsea is offering now.

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