How Frank Lampard and Jurgen Klopp helped Chelsea’s ‘Messi’ become Thomas Tuchel’s key man

Antonio Rudiger has not always had the easiest time of it at Chelsea.

Signed by Antonio Conte in the summer of 2018, he would go on to fall out with the Italian after publicly criticising the Blues’ tactics and he would do similar with Frank Lampard, the club legend refusing to pick Rudiger for a lengthy period.

But under compatriot Thomas Tuchel, the 28-year-old has found his feet. In the eight months of the current Chelsea regime, he has rocketed from fringe defender to undroppable fan-favourite.

Cries off “Ruud!” can be heard echoing around the ground every time he makes a tackle or goes on an entertaining foray forward. One such incident came on Tuesday night against Zenit St. Petersburg in the Champions League

Starting in his own half, Rudiger carried the ball at pace to the edge of the opposition penalty area only for him to be denied a goal of the season contender by a shot that he flashed wide.

So impressive it was, that Chelsea fans were in awe on social media.

Despite never being a favourite of Lampard’s, however, the Blues do have a lot to thank their ex-manager for.

After appearing in just one of Chelsea’s first 15 Premier League games during the 2020/21 campaign, Rudiger admits that he was close to seeking a move away

But, by his own admission, the Germany international says that the faith shown in him by Lampard in his final weeks at the club convinced him to stay.

“Frank Lampard trusted in my abilities after Christmas in a very difficult situation and I was thankful for this,” Rudiger said in an interview with the Athletic in February 2021.

“It was also the main reason why I told my representatives not to look for a possible winter move anymore.”

But the influence does not stop there.

When Rudiger was rising through the ranks as a youth player, he spent three years in the Borussia Dortmund set-up between 2008 and 2011.

At the time, an energetic, likeable manager by the name of Jurgen Klopp was starting to assert himself in the Bundesliga, and talked to Rudiger on more than one occasion before the defender took the plunge and moved to Stuttgart.

“When he [Klopp] spoke to me at the friendly match I saw he’s a coach that gives you motivation, like you’re the best in the world,” he said in an interview with Goal in 2018.

That’s very good and one of his best skills as a coach. He had nothing to do with [me leaving], because I was in the youth [team].

I knew for myself I had to leave Dortmund to play first-team football. I spoke to him twice, because he used to watch a lot of academy games. He also invited me to a friendly match.”

It was likely a small act from Klopp but it undoubtedly gave the young Rudiger a wealth of belief to take into his future career.

That confidence is shown today both on the pitch and off it.


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