Chelsea are on the verge of undergoing major changes in the months ahead. They should get new owners before the end of the season and expect to have a busy summer transfer window. Some players are ticketed to leave, the biggest among them being defender Antonio Rudiger.
The German international has been one of the star players under Thomas Tuchel, but he isn’t keen on signing a new contract and is looking for a new adventure next season. Chelsea need to accept a future without Rudiger and must plan ahead.
Tuchel’s side are likely to be in the market for another centre-back to replace the sturdy German defender. But will they be able to find a replacement who can replicate Rudiger’s heroics?
Here are three potential options to replace him.
Chelsea need a commanding and brave centre-back to replace Rudiger in their backline. Milan Skriniar has proved himself to be just that for Inter Milan the last few years. The 27-year-old is a proactive, sturdy defender who can also excel in a defensive back-three.
Skriniar has contributed to 16 clean sheets in 39 appearances this season, helping Inter maintain the best defensive record in Serie A – 24 goals allowed in 31 games. Skriniar is a tough customer who can handle himself well against pace or physicality, two key traits to have in the Premier League.
He’s made 78 clearances and 65 tackles and interceptions in 28 league games (via FBREF), proving capable of making clutch challenges under pressure. Skriniar also possesses impressive distribution ability and has a 92.9% passing accuracy. He’s the complete package and despite his €65m value, the Inter defender would be a sound investment.
Fikayo Tomori back at Chelsea?
Chelsea only sold Fikayo Tomori to AC Milan last year after not finding a role for him in their senior team. He has since gone on to become one of the best centre-backs in Serie A and is helping Milan fight for the title. He’s helped them keep 11 clean sheets in 24 league games, while they’ve only conceded 29 goals in 31 games overall. Tomori is an agile, compact defender who is not afraid of putting his body on the line to save his team from trouble.
WhoScored identifies his tackling, blocking shots and passing as strengths. Tomori is much like Rudiger in the sense that he also loves flying into tackles and isn’t afraid of making high-risk challenges to avert trouble. This season, Fikayo has averaged 2.7 clearances, 2.4 tackles and 1.5 interceptions per 90 minutes (as per WhoScored).
At 24, Tomori still has his best years in front of him and can be a solid fit for Chelsea’s backline as he’ll be able to enjoy having multiple defenders beside him. Fikayo is valued at around €45m, which is more than what Chelsea sold him for, but it’d be worth bringing him back knowing the Englishman’s ability to thrive at the top level.
As they’d have to sign someone to fill the void in their left-sided centre-back position, Chelsea could opt to sign a left-footed player as Rudiger’s replacement. This would allow them to move the ball forward efficiently as a left-footed player is usually more comfortable passing from that side. Villarreal defender Pau Torres has been on their wish list for quite some time now.
Earlier this season, it was reported by 90min (via Si.com) that the club would try to sign the Spanish international as Rudiger’s replacement if the German leaves in the summer. That desire has probably become more significant after Torres’ performance this season and his emergence as one of Spain’s best defenders. In 23 La Liga appearances this season, Torres has made 96 clearances and 60 tackles+interceptions (via FBREF).
The 25-year-old has also been hugely impressive in big Champions League games, helping Villarreal keep clean sheets against Juventus and Bayern Munich – as well as scoring against the Italians in the Round of 16 first-leg tie.
WhoScored identifies his strengths as blocking shots and passing, two aspects Chelsea will need in Rudiger’s absence. He won’t be available for cheap and the Blues could be forced to shell out €50m, but paying that much for a Spain national team regular and someone with a bright future makes sense.