'A gem': BBC pundit claims Chelsea fans have taken ages to realise just how good their £29m player is

Garth Crooks suggests Antonio Rudiger has been underrated at Chelsea by supporters for a large spell of his time at Stamford Bridge.

Rudiger, who joined the Blues for £29million back in 2017 from Roma, has had a turbulent five years in west London.

The hugely popular defender played his last game for Chelsea on Sunday against Watford on the final day of the Premier League season.

He’s receiving plenty of compliments ahead of his imminent summer exit, including a huge thanks from Mason Mount for his big influence.

The 29-year-old centre-back will now reportedly become a Real Madrid player on 1 July on a free transfer. Unfortunately, Chelsea’s sanctions prevented any last-ditch attempts to try get him to sign a contract extension at Stamford Bridge before his deal expired.

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Rudiger has been underrated

BBC pundit Crooks thinks the Chelsea fanbase has been a little late to the party realising just how good Rudiger actually is.

Crooks, who’s included the Blues centre-half in his 2021/22 Premier League team of the season, is clearly a massive admirer.

In fairness, he wasn’t always the most popular figure under previous managers. He’s always had the physical attributes of a top defender, but the mental side and a lack of concentration has been a weak point.

However, the form and improvement under Blues manager Thomas Tuchel for 18 months has made him a firm fan favourite.

“It didn’t take me long to realise that Chelsea had bought a gem. Antonio Rudiger seemed as though he was born to play at Stamford Bridge, although it took the Chelsea faithful what felt like an age to realise it. To be fair to their supporters they have had some magnificent defenders in their time so having to be convinced about Rudiger was not totally unreasonable. However, since then he has gone on to win the Premier League and Champions League. He is one of the few genuine warriors left in the game and the perfect replacement for Sergio Ramos – which is probably why he finds himself leaving for Real Madrid,” Crooks wrote.

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Chelsea system

A lot are wondering whether the Blues would be better off returning to a back four and ditching the back three next season ahead of Rudiger’s departure.

The exit-bound defender has been a colossus as the left-sided centre-back in a back three, which is a role that suits him down to the ground.

It’s hard to think a player can come into the side and dominate the entire left channel as effectively as Rudiger, though.

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A sports journalist who graduated from Staffordshire University in 2016 and is a Chelsea supporter. Loves anything football or cricket related when it comes to England.