Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel wary he must act now to avoid potential summer crisis

Thomas Tuchel, Manager of Chelsea and Antonio Ruediger of Chelsea celebrate with the Champions League Trophy following their team's victory during the UEFA Champions League Final between Manchester City and Chelsea FC at Estadio do Dragao on May 29, 2021 in Porto, Portugal. 

Chelsea have enjoyed a strong start to the Premier League season and sit top of the standings after seven rounds of action.

There are plenty of reasons for encouragement for Blues fans with their strong defensive record most notable – conceding just three goals; the joint-best defence in the division.

Yet the cohesive defensive structure that boss Thomas Tuchel has built up at Stamford Bridge is under threat with a concerning contractual situation playing out at the club.

The club’s most impressive defender during Tuchel’s stint has been Antonio Rudiger but the German international is out of contract this summer and as the weeks tick by, his exit as a free agent appears increasingly likely.

That alone would be cause for alarm as Rudiger has grown into an influential figure having been somewhat frozen out under previous boss Frank Lampard.

Yet the former Roma star is one of four defenders in first-team squad that are out of contract; the futures of Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva and Cesar Azpilicueta all remain unclear.

Antonio Ruediger and Thomas Tuchel, Manager of Chelsea celebrate with the UEFA Champions League Trophy following their team's victory in the UEFA Champions League Final between Manchester City and Chelsea FC at Estadio do Dragao on May 29, 2021 in Porto, Portugal. 

This follows on from a summer in which the club failed to land top defensive target Jules Kounde, while allowing the departure of Kurt Zouma to West Ham.

Tuchel is aware of this, having pushed unsuccessfully for a summer signing, and the indications are that he is applying pressure on the club to sort the situation.

The Blues boss said last month: "I hope that they find a solution but it's not only between coaches and players.

"It's between the club and the player's agent.

"He plays excellent for a long time - very consistent [and] at a very high level. I feel him very calm, very focused and it's obviously not a distraction for him.

"So give things time - sometimes it needs a bit longer, sometimes things get very fast. There's no news from my side.

"I think Toni feels very, very good at Chelsea. He feels respect from his team-mates, he feels the importance he has in the team. It's well deserved because he delivers.

"He feels the love from the supporters. He plays in the strongest league in Europe and in a big club, so not many reasons to change. But it's in good hands. I'm calm and relaxed - whatever has to happen will happen."

Such quotes are indicative of Tuchel’s position; he wants the club to sort out Rudiger’s contract but he was also appealing to the player to recognise the environment in which he is in.

Having arrived in 2017, Rudiger’s time at Chelsea has been full of ups and downs but 2021 has brought his best run of sustained form in his career with Tuchel playing a key part.

Yet the lure of European giants such as Bayern Munich and Real Madrid may prove hard to resist, particularly if they piece together a more enticing economic package.

"Of course [Bayern's interest] honours me and proves that I've been doing things right,” Rudiger told the media this week.

"But I don't let myself be distracted. I have an obligation to my club to perform well. I have to prove myself every game and not let myself be distracted by rumours.

"I make my decisions for myself. They don't depend on anyone. I feel good where I am."

Bayern boss Julian Nagelsmann joked to the media last month that he would "see if I still have money in my wallet" if Rudiger's Chelsea deal expires without renewal.

He noted that his German compatriot “has incredibly good aggression and is a very good defender” but insisted he could not speak more about players that were not his own.

Rudiger remains a Chelsea player and a very important one at that – but the more time passes without an update on his future, the less likely he will be in West London next season.

With the club already one central defender short of ideal strength in depth and uncertainty over the futures of multiple other players, Chelsea must act now to avoid a potential transfer crisis next summer.

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