Chelsea are now resigned to losing centre-back Antonio Rüdiger on a free transfer in 2022, 90min understands, with the German set to become one of the most coveted players on the continent.
Rüdiger’s contract at Stamford Bridge expires in the summer and talks over a new deal have long been at an impasse, with the Blues’ most recent offer well short of matching his desire to become one of the club’s highest-paid players.
That would be seen as reward for a remarkable 12 months of stellar form since Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard as Chelsea’s head coach – during which time the 28-year-old has collected a Champions League winners medal and established himself as one of the best central defenders in the world, having previously been viewed as something of a liability.
However, 90min understands that the disparity between Chelsea‘s latest offer and Rüdiger’s demands means the club’s hierarchy has all but accepted that the Germany international will not pen fresh terms to remain in west London.
Rüdiger is free to negotiate his next move from January, and as many as 11 top European clubs are vying for the rare opportunity to sign a top class player without paying a transfer fee.
That includes all of the Blues’ major Premier League rivals in Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham. Outside of England, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Inter have all registered their interest and are preparing offers for January.
At this early stage Real Madrid and PSG are believed to be the frontrunners, but Rüdiger and his representatives are yet to make any major decisions.
Tuchel is understood to have wanted the club’s hierarchy to prioritise keeping Rüdiger, but it seems increasingly likely he will not get his wish.
Speaking in November, the Chelsea boss said: “The situation is the situation. We want him to stay, this is very clear and he knows it. But sometimes in these situations there is a certain delay and, obviously, there is a delay in these talks and his decision.
“It can happen these days but it does not effect his mentality, it doesn’t affect his quality, it doesn’t effect his behaviour. He is fully committed to Chelsea right now and I am absolutely sure he feels the trust, respect and love from the club and spectators.”
The German coach will be reassured that Chelsea are confident of tying up new deals for both Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta – two defenders who are also out of contract at the end of the season.
That is despite Christensen being left out of the team for three matches as a result of his agent back-tracking on a new contract agreed months ago and changing his demands.