Carlo Ancelotti was personally involved last summer in the signing of Antonio Rüdiger, and everyone took it for granted that as soon as he started he would give him the center of defense and move Alaba to the left side to the detriment of Mendy, a player whom in the offices their absences due to injury were noted. However, the technician, a man of customs and certainties, the first thing he did was not move anything. Even more so, in the first preseason game, against Barcelona in the summer in Las Vegas, the one he tried on that left-handed flank was the German, who barely had memories of that location.
The Italian coach had detected in the qualifying rounds for the last Champions League a shortage of pieces in the axis of the rear [contra el Chelsea acabó ahí con Carvajal y frente al City debió recurrir a Vallejo], and reactivated interest in the German, whom the club had ruled out months before due to his high financial claims. Carletto’s mediation in spring was key to convincing the player and attracting him to the Bernabéu, although, from the outset, the Reggiolo coach placed him behind his fetén quartet (Carvajal, Militão, Alaba and Mendy). He did not hide his inclination to give him clues as soon as there was an option, but behind those who had raised the Orejona.
After a first part of the course of odds and evens, going in and out of the eleven (he was not a starter in the first big events), Alaba’s post-World Cup physical problems (he has lost more than half the games) and Mendy They have become the player in the squad with the most minutes (1,455) in the last two months. When he has everyone healthy at the back, Carletto will have to decide again in order of his priorities, but, for now, Rüdiger, who turns 30 this Thursday, is a fixture alongside Militão.
The general feeling is that, until now, his performance has been below the image of solidity and forcefulness that he carried from his time at Chelsea. “He is very strong and big. Some forwards get a little scared”, Neymar came to say of him. In Madrid, within a global defensive system that has often cracked, the German has appeared in the photo of some errors and his delivery of the ball has also shown weaknesses. For example, the first goal for Barcelona in the final of the Spanish Super Cup was born from a commitment from him to Camavinga.
an eccentric point
The comparison of his statistics in the League with respect to his best moment in England, the second half of 2020-21, when Thomas Tüchel promoted him within a scheme with three central defenders and Chelsea won the Champions League, show slight setbacks. He gives far fewer passes every 90 minutes (59 on average compared to 75 then), recovers fewer balls (5.6-6.7), goes to half the number of games (3.5-7.3) and intercepts fewer (0.6-1). This Thursday, in the preview of the first leg of the Cup semifinals against Barça (9:00 p.m., La 1 and Movistar), Carlo Ancelotti assessed his progress in recent dates within a somewhat tighter protection device. “He has greatly improved his level. He can still progress in handling the ball, but on a defensive level he and the Militão have been solid ”, commented the white coach.
Close to Vinicius in the booth and an admirer of ex-Madridista Pepe, the new white central defender has conveyed the image of a guy with an eccentric point. At the end of the match in Liverpool, he grabbed Modric like a sack of potatoes and hoisted him onto his shoulder like a child. In recent months, videos of him running across the field at maximum speed with his trunk straight as a board, and moving his arms and legs like a robot, have also become famous. “My colleagues have already realized that I am absolutely crazy,” he said three months after arriving. In the last European Championship, he was caught trying, or feigning, to bite Frenchman Pogba from behind, and in England he confessed that he had come to provoke the fans of Stamford Bridge in the middle of a match “to wake them up”.
With a mother from Sierra Leone (she fled in 1991 due to the civil war), Rüdiger was born in Berlin and grew up in the Neukölln neighborhood, an area with a high immigrant population. He has declared himself a practicing Muslim (after winning the Champions League in 2021, he took a break from the champagne celebration and went to the bathroom with Kanté, Zouma and Ziyech), and his emotional attachment to his mother’s country has led him to participate in various solidarity projects in that region of Africa.
As a child, he has recognized, he played soccer so hard that his older classmates called him Rambo. Now, in professional life, he claims the few reds that he has seen in his career (four), although he has acknowledged that he likes to bite his rivals spontaneously on the fly to take their temperature. “I need the mental games,” said this central defender from whom Madrid expects another step forward on the pitch, starting with Barcelona in the Cup.
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