In the quarterfinals of the Champions League, Antonio Rudiger intends to inflict more suffering on his former Chelsea teammates.
The Real Madrid defender was an important member of Thomas Tuchel’s squad that defeated Manchester City in the competition’s final in 2021.
Last summer, Real, the current Champions League champions, snatched him up after he left Stamford Bridge on a free transfer.
We reflect on Rudiger’s time with the Blues and evaluate his performance since transferring to the Spanish capital ahead of tonight’s opening leg at the Bernabeu.
Shortly after helping Chelsea win the title of European champions, Rudiger, 30, started negotiations with Chelsea about a new contract.
He was reportedly one of the older players in the squad earning £90,000 per week at the time. He was not pleased with the original offer, and talks ended abruptly.
Romelu Lukaku’s arrival in West London that summer, when it was widely claimed the striker had been paid a weekly salary of £340,000, probably didn’t help matters.
Although Chelsea eventually tried to pay Rudiger £230,000 per week to become the highest-paid defender in club history, better offers were available elsewhere.
The Blues wasted the opportunity to get the center back when he was eager to sign with a team being successfully guided by his countryman Tuchel. Real Madrid has now benefited from their loss.
It may seem odd that Chelsea allowed such a crucial player’s contract to lapse in the first place, but it is simple to forget that his stint with the team was anything from a complete success.
Rudiger, who was acquired from Roma before the 2017–18 season, played for Antonio Conte’s FA Cup-winning squad.
He missed the Europa League victory the following season under Maurizio Sarri due to a catastrophic knee injury, and he missed a significant portion of 2019–20 under Frank Lampard due to a groin issue.
His performance wasn’t always reliable, and there were rumors that Lampard would trade him in 2020. In January 2021, Tuchel was only eight games into the season when he was appointed.
He nevertheless played a significant role in the squad that unexpectedly won the Champions League under his fellow German.
Tuchel’s team developed a reputation for their defensive sturdiness, maintaining a streak of clean sheets en route to their victory over City in Lisbon, with Rudiger used as one of three center-backs.
Under Lampard, the tough defender swiftly transitioned from a supporting role player to an important element of the team. Chelsea was caught off guard by this sudden change in status.
Rudiger is working to build a similar reputation now at Real Madrid.
The Berlin-born star has been vying with David Alaba for the position of left-sided central defender alongside Eder Militao since Carlo Ancelotti prefers a back four.
As the season went on, he was relied upon more and more, starting both of the last-16 matches against Liverpool.
To replace a player they lost for free, struggling Chelsea has spent millions on players like Wesley Fofana, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Benoit Badiashile.
Nobody appears to be as accomplished as Rudiger as of yet. The bright side is that he himself wasn’t an overnight success.
Jordan Ayew equals John Paintsil’s Ghana record
After earning his 91st appearance against the Central African Republic in the final round of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers, Jordan Ayew hit a significant milestone in his Ghanaian career.
The 31-year-old gained further honors when he assumed leadership of the team in the absence of his brother Andre Ayew. He entered Ghana’s encounter with his head held high after winning the Crystal Palace Player of the Month award for August.
Mohammed Kudus’ outstanding free-kick goal and Ernest Nuamah’s late goal for the Black Stars—who was making only his second appearance—in the 88th minute helped Ghana, led by Jordan Ayew, come from behind to defeat their opponents 2-1.
In terms of Ghanaian internationals with the most outings, Jordan Ayew is now tied for fourth place with Andre Ayew (114), Asamoah Gyan (109), and Richard Kingson (93).
The former Olympique Marseille player declared after the game that he was prepared to raise his total with other contests.
He added, “I still have games left to play.”
Ayew, who has played for the squad consistently since his debut in 2010, has scored 19 goals and is expected to play a bigger role in Ghana’s upcoming games, including those in the 2026 World Cup qualifications and the 2023 AFCON competition, which will take place in Ivory Coast next year.
Neymar claims Saudi league could top Ligue 1 already
According to Brazilian captain Neymar, the football league in Saudi Arabia may already be more competitive than Ligue 1 in France.
The 31-year-old attacker left Paris Saint-Germain in August for approximately £77.5 million with add-ons for the Saudi Pro League.
In a transfer window that saw Saudi teams spend more than £700 million on foreign players, Neymar signed with Al-Hilal.
I wouldn’t be astonished if the Saudi league is superior to the French, he remarked, given the names that were sent to Saudi Arabia.
According to data from the football governing organization Fifa, Saudi clubs’ spending on foreign agreements this summer was second only to the Premier League, whose teams spent just under £1.6bn on foreign transactions.
Although Al-Ittihad was unable to lure Mohamed Salah away from Liverpool, other Premier League players, including Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino, and Fabinho, moved to Saudi Arabia.
Karim Benzema of Real Madrid, Georginio Wijnaldum of PSG, and Sadio Mane of Bayern Munich were also courted by Saudi clubs.
Marcelo Brozovic, the captain of Inter Milan in the Champions League final, Franck Kessie of Barcelona, Jota of Celtic, and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic of Lazio are among more players who have made the move to the Saudi Pro League.
A brand-new transfer world record might have also occurred. After making a £259 million offer, PSG allowed Al-Hilal to speak with Kylian Mbappe. However, the forward chose to stay with the French champions, and Neymar was instead sold.
Although Neymar’s tenure in Paris was limited by ankle ailments after transferring from Barcelona for a record sum of £200 million in 2017, he assisted PSG in winning five Ligue 1 championships.
While representing Brazil internationally, Neymar said: “I can promise you that Saudi Arabian football is the same. We have goalposts, and the ball is spherical.
“There is no mystery. There, we practice hard because we still have a strong desire to win.
“I want Al-Hilal to win championships. Not much has changed.
Saudi Pro League, according to Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, poses a greater threat than not.
The Saudi deadline, which ended over a week after the top leagues in Europe, drew criticism from a number of Premier League managers.
Jurgen Klopp, the manager of Liverpool, stated last week that the Saudi Pro League felt more dangerous than not. According to Klopp, it’s important to “protect the game and ensure that European leagues remain as strong as they are.”
Henderson, a staunch ally of the LGBTQ+ community, claimed that criticism of his transfer had “really hurt” him.
Given that same-sex sexual conduct is prohibited in Saudi Arabia, some LGBTQ+ activists have questioned his decision.
Richard Ofori and Jordan Ayew train with the Black Stars in Kumasi
Prior to their upcoming encounter against Central African Republic (CAR), Black Stars teammates Richard Ofori and Jordan Ayew arrived in Kumasi in time for their team’s first training session.
After landing in Kumasi, the team held their first practice at the Baba Yara Stadium with 24 players present (Joseph Paintsil was not there).
when previously reported by DEK360ghana, the squad held its first practice on Monday in Accra with only approximately 12 players present. However, most of the players eventually joined when they traveled from the capital to Kumasi.
While his teammates continue to train in Kumasi in preparation for the crucial encounter, Paintsil is the only unfit player who is considered present in Accra.
However, because the event was intended to be private, access to the Baba Yara Stadium was refused to both media and spectators.
As the pivotal game in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier approaches, the team is slated to hold another practice that will likely be accessible to the media.
Ghana must either win or draw to qualify for the tournament, which will be hosted by Ivory Coast’s neighbors the following year, while CAR must win in order to advance.
The game kicks off on Thursday at the Baba Yara Stadium at 16:00GMT