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The centre-back will walk away from Stamford Bridge at the end of the season after rejecting the chance to become the club’s highest-paid defender of all time on £230,000-a-week.
While Chelsea’s hierarchy were prepared to go to such levels to keep hold of the Germany international, they were conscious of the risk of more players looking to run their contracts down to receive huge pay days.
They already face a race against time to keep hold of N’Golo Kante and Jorginho, who are both set to enter the final 12 months of their current deals. And with Andreas Christensen also set to walk away this summer as a free agent, there is a growing pattern of players being allowed to enter the final stages of their contracts.
That raises the prospect of Chelsea having to watch valuable assets go for nothing, or offer huge deals to keep them at the club.
Rudiger’s situation has been complicated by the sanctions placed on Roman Abramovich, which prevent Chelsea from handing out new contracts until the club is sold. But the offer of £230,000-a-week was made before their Russian owner had his assets frozen by the UK Government – and it was determined the figures required to keep hold of the defender would be too much.
Real Madrid are favourites to land the 29-year-old, while Christensen is set to join Barcelona. Sevilla’s Jules Kounde is Chelsea’s top defensive target this summer, with Leicester’s Wesley Fofana also on their radar. Thomas Tuchel admits it will be a challenge to replace Rudiger.
“Even when the sanctions are in the past, it will be incredibly difficult,” he said. “Toni is what he is. He is a big personality, a big leader. He takes the fear away from other people, gives you confidence when he is next to you, and has played 50-60 matches over 90 minutes with incredible consistency.
“So it will be challenging, but like always, no matter how much I love Toni and how big a role he played, there will be Chelsea without Toni Rudiger and we will find solutions.”
Tuchel added: “I fought hard on a personal level and we've had this kind of connection from day one. He deserves my full support because he delivered incredible performances, so reliable. So it was a give and take.
"I know he is very aware of it and I am just happy to have had the chance to coach him and have him in the team because he was nothing but brilliant until today. The club did as well, we had big offers for him and the club tried everything. But for some weeks, we can't fight anymore because of the sanctions. We could not adjust or continue, so it is what it is."
Rudiger missed the 1-0 win against West Ham with a groin injury. But Tuchel insists he will continue to play the German for the remainder of the campaign, potentially starting against Manchester United on Thursday.
“I have absolutely no concern,” he said. “He has no doubts and has made no doubts about it. He will play until the end of the season with everything he has.
“This is what he did from day one and it’s what he will do until the last minute. I am 100 per cent sure.”