Saturday, June 25

How Real Madrid could line up with Antonio Rudiger

After a lengthy contract standoff with Chelsea, Antonio Rudiger is officially a Real Madrid player.

On paper, it seems like a fantastic piece of business for Los Blancos; the European champions have signed a top-class defender at his peak and arguably with his best years ahead of him – and they haven’t had to pay a penny by way of transfer fee.

It very much feels as though Chelsea’s loss will be Real Madrid‘s gain, but this is a move Rudiger truly earned having overhauled his reputation before enhancing it exponentially with some rock solid performances at the heart of Thomas Tuchel’s defence, most notably his display in the 2021 Champions League final.

However, having featured predominantly in a back three during his most impressive period at Stamford Bridge, new surroundings could bring new challenges for the Germany international. Here’s how he could fit in…

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti is a loyal proponent of the 4-3-3 formation, and it’s difficult to see him changing that just to accommodate Rudiger.

While he featured in a back four on occasion under Tuchel, there are question marks over whether the 29-year-old is best suited to that system. It’s likely he’ll have to adapt quickly if he wants to nail down a starting place at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Real already have top-class centre-backs David Alaba and Eder Militao in their ranks, although it has been suggested that the former could be shifted to left-back and, as a result, Ferland Mendy could be sold.

In a four it may be that either full-back is asked to sit deep and narrow to allow Rudiger to maraud forward in his trademark manner – something that you could imagine being extremely effective in La Liga. Given that he is a right-footed centre-back who can play on the left side of central defence, ther German does provide Ancelotti with plenty of strong options.

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Possible back fours:

Carvajal (RB) – Militao (CB) – Rudiger (CB) – Alaba (LB)

Carvajal (RB) – Rudiger (CB) – Alaba (CB) – Mendy (LB)

Carvajal (RB) – Militao (CB) – Rudiger (CB) – Mendy (LB)

Inarguably the formation that suits Rudiger’s style of play better than any other. Although he has worked extremely hard on his defensive deficiencies in recent months, the centre-back’s performances towards the end of 2021/22 demonstrate that he is by no means flawless.

A three-at-the-back system is mutually beneficial as Rudiger is able to effectively support the attack while being covered defensively. The former Roma man also thrives when the opposition has possession, defending the relatively smaller space that a back five provides, man-marking and probably going haring after the ball when he sees even a slither of an opportunity to make a crashing challenge.

However, it is deemed unlikely that Ancelotti would be open to a back five at this stage – and that is probably fair enough after he has just won a La Liga and Champions League double with his preferred attacking 4-3-3. It wouldn’t leave them with much central defensive depth beyond the starters either.

Nevertheless, at least it gives him the option…

Possible back fives:

Carvajal (RWB) – Militao (CB) – Rudiger (CB) – Alaba (CB) – Mendy (LWB)

Vazquez (RWB) – Militao (CB) – Rudiger (CB) – Alaba (CB) – Mendy (LWB)

Carvajal (RWB) – Militao (CB) – Nacho (CB) – Rudiger (CB) – Alaba (LWB)

Vazquez (RWB) – Militao (CB) – Nacho (CB) – Rudiger (CB) – Alaba (LWB)

Valverde (RWB) – Militao (CB) – Rudiger (CB) – Alaba (CB) – Mendy (LWB)

Valverde (RWB) – Militao (CB) – Nacho (CB) – Rudiger (CB) – Alaba (LWB)

Given Real have not shelled out a mammoth transfer fee, there is perhaps less pressure for Ancelotti to throw Rudiger into his starting lineup immediately. However, given his form and current standing, the player certainly won’t be content with a place on the bench.

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Granted, Rudiger may be eased into life in Spain, but eventually he will be expecting to start.

If the Italian tactician eventually does want to start experimenting with a back five – perhaps when defending out a big game – then holding an athlete like Rudiger in reserve could work to his advantage.

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