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Chelsea: Could Conte transform Rudiger into a world-class defender?

This summer Antonio Conte spent £34m to bring in German centre back Antonio Rudiger to the club. Here, RealSport gives you an insight into the new Blue at the Bridge.

From his previous managerial jobs, including his most high profiles roles with Juventus and Itlay, it is clear that Antonio Conte values his defenders as the heart and soul of his team. Known for playing three at the back, the Italian has helped to develop some of the best centre-backs in the world, including Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli.

From the moment he was linked with the job at Chelsea, he was scouting for top quality central defenders to lead his team from the back.

Last year he managed to sign David Luiz, not his first choice but someone who exceeded expectations and shone at the heart of the Blues’ backline as they bullied their way to the Premier League title last season.

Despite a brilliant season for the Blues, Conte new he would have to strengthen almost automatically in order to try and emulate Chelsea’s Premier League success with the extra toll of the Champions League looming.

Chelsea have also seen some of their squad players depart the club this summer, giving even more reason to bring in new life to the team. Club legend, John Terry departed for Aston Villa after 19 years at the Bridge on a free transfer, Kurt Zouma has been loaned out to Stoke and Nathan Ake was sold to Bournemouth for £20m.

Therefore, it made a lot of sense when Chelsea announced that they had signed German international Antonio Rudiger for £34m, ending a two-year long hunt for the former Roma defender.

Rudiger’s background

Rudiger grew up in Berlin and started his football career playing for VfB Sperber Neukölln before moving onto a number of German teams including SV Tasmania Berlin, Neuköllner Sportfreunde 1907, Hertha Zehlendorf and Borussia Dortmund.

He finally settled at VfB Stuttgart where he made his senior debut against Borussia Mönchengladbach in January 2012.

On an international level, the centre-back was eligible to play for both Sierra Leone and Germany. Having played for all of the German youth sides, he was called up to make his senior debut under Joachim Löw in 2014.

Transition from right back to centre back

In the 2015/16 season, the 6ft 3inch defender was then to loaned out to play in the Serie A with Roma with an optional €9 million transfer fee at the end of the one-year contract.

He made 30 appearances throughout the campaign helping Roma to a third place league finish. It was at Roma where Luciano Spalletti converted Rudiger from a right-back into a central defender as part of a back three.

Spalletti decided to keep the youngster at the Giallorossi, purchasing him from Stuttgart in May 2016. Here, Rudiger played 26 games for Roma, aiding them to a second place finish in the Serie A, just four points behind league winners, Juventus.

Long-term investment

After two successful seasons with Roma, Chelsea swooped in to steal the star for £34m this summer.

His pace, upper-body strength and overall physical presence makes him a commanding figure at the back and with the guidance of Conte, he could become a truly great defender for Chelsea.

Rudiger is unlikely to break into the first team at Chelsea straight away, especially after their title-winning season.

However, Gary Cahill is now 31 and Davis Luiz is 30, meaning the German is likely seen as a long-term investment and a solid backup for Conte’s team.

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Chelsea: Could Conte transform Rudiger into a world-class defender?

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