He dances with the ball

One and a half years after his arrival, Antonio Rüdiger is one of the undisputed performers at Chelsea. After initial doubts, the defender is now worshiped by the blues fans. His coach plays a major role in this, forcing the German into a role that no one has credited him with.

When Antonio Rüdiger moved to Chelsea in the summer of 2017, there was great skepticism among the Blues fans. 35 million paid the club from the West London for the defender, who was perhaps one of the best Germans in his position, but certainly not among the best in the world.

The transfer did not really fit the claim of the six-time champion, who in the past has always striven to upgrade his squad for huge sums of money with world-renowned stars. Today, about 18 months later, the doubts are erased. Rüdiger has not simply exhausted his enormous potential, but has developed new and previously unimagined abilities.

Rüdiger as playmaker and ball distributor

Under new coach Maurizio Sarri the defender flourishes week by week in unfamiliar role. The Italian is considered a fanatical proponent of ball possession football and uses the German central defender in 4-3-3 as playmaker and ball distributor. A role with which Rüdiger first had to make friends.

"Last season I played almost only long passes, which has changed under the new coach and in the new system, for me it was very important that I adapt myself, I think I did well," says Rüdiger Development, which can be proven by a few impressive numbers.

In the footsteps of Toni Kroos and Co.

In the season 2017/18 Rüdiger played on average 63.3 passes per game. This year, the value rose to 81.7. A number that looks even more impressive when you look at the other "passport machines" of the continent.

In the big five European leagues, there are only six players in each game who bring more balls per game from A to B: Toni Kroos (Real Madrid / 86.9), Jérôme Boateng (Bayern / 84.9), Niklas Süle (FC Bayern / 82.7), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan / 89.7), Jorginho (Chelsea / 95.1) and Aymeric Laporte (ManCity / 84.7).

Without the "Sarri-Ball", as the tactic of the Italian on the island is often called, Rüdiger would certainly not count to this exquisite circle. Still, it's remarkable how much the German's game has changed from one season to the next.

"He [Sarri] told me that I have to build the game from the back. That's what I've taken to heart, "says Rüdiger, who says:" I want to play, so I have to try it. "Twenty-two starting-line bets in 22 games show how indispensable Rüdiger is in constructing the blues ,

In the Bundesliga "rarely used the brain"

At Chelsea, Antonio Rüdiger has become "Mr. Reliable". The defender has missed just a single game since his cruciate ligament rupture that cost him the 2016 European Championship. On the pitch he has minimized his error rate, developed new qualities in the pass and position play. With 2016 ball contacts he is one of the biggest "ball magnets" in the league. Under Maurizio Sarri is the ex-Stuttgarter the player who has made the biggest jump.

In the cabin, he is also one of the players to be listened to. He also owes that to his experience. Although only 25 years old, Rüdiger has already played and learned in Germany, Italy and England.

Most important for him was his stay in Rome. "Before in Germany, I used only my power and strength, but rarely the brain," said the defender, who described the change from VfB Stuttgart to AS Roma as "the biggest step of my career" and reveals: "In Italy, I have the defending learned. "

Contract talks? "Does not have to be"

Where his career will lead him in the coming years is open. In London Rüdiger is under contract until 2022. Talks about an early extension have not yet taken place. "That does not have to be," Rüdiger pushes aside all questions about his future.

Should the German build on his achievements in the coming months, it will probably not be long before he too has to deal with his future. Already in the summer Paris Saint-Germain should have ejected the fishing rod. Associated clubs such as Juventus, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and maybe Bayern have the urge to rejuvenate their defense in the foreseeable future. If Antonio Rüdiger be mentioned in this context, no one should be surprised.

Christian Schenzel