Rudiger insists Chelsea sanctions were not key in his decision to leave

By Sports Desk May 15, 2022

Antonio Rudiger said the sanctions placed on Chelsea by the UK government were not the reason behind his decision to leave the club.

Germany defender Rudiger has been a crucial player for Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea but has not agreed to a new contract.

The former Roma centre-back will therefore leave at the end of the season on a free transfer, with Real Madrid his likely destination.

Rudiger has helped Chelsea to four FA Cup finals, winning one, and a Champions League success since joining in 2017. The UEFA Super Cup, Europa League and FIFA Club World Cup are also included in his honours.

When confirming that Rudiger had asked to leave Chelsea in April, Tuchel suggested that the sanctions placed on the club's owner Roman Abramovic in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine meant the Blues were unable to match the 29-year-old's financial demands.

Rudiger, however, insisted that the sanctions had no impact on his decision.

"I don’t want to go too deep into things," he told reporters at Wembley on Saturday, after Chelsea lost 6-5 on penalties to Liverpool in the FA Cup final, their third consecutive defeat in the competition's showpiece.

"There was a chance but sanctions were not the problem.

"It’s been five years with ups and downs as normal. There were a lot of positive things, but that's why I'm even more frustrated because I wanted to have a different ending.

"It's about both sides. Chelsea have been great to me and I have been great for Chelsea. I am very, very thankful, both me and my family.

"I became a man here. My kids were born here and everything. London, and especially Chelsea, will always be special to me."

Chelsea have become the first side since Newcastle United (1974, 1998 and 1999) to lose on three consecutive FA Cup final appearances, while the Blues are the first team since Middlesbrough in 1996-97 to lose both of England's domestic cup finals in the same campaign, after their penalty shoot-out loss to Liverpool in the EFL Cup final in February.

"I think it was a good game just like the EFL Cup final. We had chances, they had chances," reflected Rudiger.

"But at the end of the day we know that penalties are always a lottery and we lost.

"It's about winning, it's not about next season. The game was about today and it was there to take. Unfortunately we didn't win.

"It's always difficult to say whether we are lucky or unlucky. For myself it's the third time [I have lost an FA Cup final] so you can't always say unlucky, unlucky, unlucky."

Rudiger has two games left before he leaves Chelsea, with the Blues hosting Leicester City on Thursday before closing out their season against Watford.

Related items

  • Saka reveals support from 'legends' Henry and Pires along with Wenger 'regret' Saka reveals support from 'legends' Henry and Pires along with Wenger 'regret'

    Bukayo Saka revealed his gratitude for the regular support he receives from Arsenal "legends" Thierry Henry and Robert Pires.

    The England winger has netted three goals in three games at the 2022 World Cup and is set to line up against France in a mouthwatering quarter-final on Saturday.

    Henry and Pires lifted the trophy with Les Bleus 24 years ago, before going on to win two Premier League titles with Arsenal in 2002 and 2004 – forming part of the 'Invincibles' side that went through the entire campaign unbeaten in the latter.

    Academy graduate Saka, who has been with the club since the age of seven, is benefitting from their wise words and guidance.

    "We have so many French players, like Thierry and Robert Pires, that have been around the club and spoken to me and helped me," he said. "They still both support me to this day, so I'm grateful to them.

    "Of course, on the pitch, they were magnificent, and they delivered silverware for Arsenal, so they'll definitely be legends – always."

    Henry made contact with Saka following his missed penalty in England's Euro 2020 final defeat by Italy, a gesture that was greatly received by the 21-year-old.

    "It showed a lot of character from him to get my number and reach out to me," he added. "After most Arsenal games, he reaches out to me. He's still so passionate about the club; he's an amazing person."

    But despite his lengthy association with Arsenal, Saka is yet to speak with another key Frenchman in the Gunners' recent history, legendary former boss Arsene Wenger.

    "One of my biggest regrets – things I haven't been able to do – was to meet Arsene Wenger," he revealed. "I know how much everyone at the club loves him, and I know what he did for the club."

  • Neymar's technical abilities 'empower' his Brazil team-mates, says Tite Neymar's technical abilities 'empower' his Brazil team-mates, says Tite

    Brazil coach Tite believes Neymar is irreplaceable because his technical abilities are what empower the rest of the team.

    Neymar was back in the starting XI for Monday's World Cup last-16 win over South Korea at Stadium 974 after injuring ankle ligaments on matchday one.

    His participation for the rest of the tournament had been in doubt, but he returned and played a key role in the comfortable 4-1 victory, scoring a penalty that took him to within one goal of Pele's all-time record of 77.

    Brazil were irresistible at times in the first half and Neymar was generally at the centre of their most promising attacks, even if he did not necessarily record an assist.

    Before Monday, Brazil's performances had been functional if not spectacular, but Neymar's return was important for the fluidity of the rest of the team.

    "He's a technical reference. This is technical leadership. When a team looks for the player, they know that they have a weapon there, [someone who can make] the difference," Tite said of the Paris Saint-Germain forward.

    "Everyone has their own striking characteristics, but Neymar is the centre, the one who empowers the others."

    With his early spot-kick, Neymar became the third Brazil player to score at three editions of the World Cup (2014, 2018 and 2022) after Pele and Ronaldo.

    He also created two chances and stepped over the ball before Vinicius Junior coolly opened the scoring in the seventh minute, while only Casemiro and Raphinha – two players who finished the game – managed more than Neymar's 17 passes in the final third, highlighting his involvement in the Selecao's attacks.

    Tite's assistant, Cesar Sampaio, believes having Neymar back also provides a mental boost to his team-mates on top of his technical excellence.

    "Neymar for sure provides a competitive advantage, he makes a difference on pitch," he said.

    "He's a driving force. I'm going round and round, beating around the bush to talk about him, but in a nutshell I'd like to congratulate our physios for their work.

    "Neymar, besides his technical skills, he motivates the others and we are very happy to have him back. He had a great performance, he's recovered and ready for new challenges.

    "He made important steps, and with him we can reach our full potential."

    Brazil's victory set up a quarter-final clash with Croatia on Friday after Zlatko Dalic's men defeated Japan 3-1 on penalties following a 1-1 draw earlier in the day.

  • Bengals can afford to start dreaming of repeat run after latest Chiefs upset Bengals can afford to start dreaming of repeat run after latest Chiefs upset

    Prior to Joe Burrow's arrival in 2020, the Cincinnati Bengals were an NFL punchline. In the third season of what looks set to be a storied NFL career, he has helped them turn one of the most fearsome teams in the league into their own personal punching bag.

    Ok, that may be going a little far. However, after their thrilling 27-24 win in Week 13, it is clear the Bengals are the dominant team in a rivalry with the Kansas City Chiefs, who they have now defeated in three successive games including their remarkable AFC Championship Game triumph last season.

    That dream run to the Super Bowl was one that looked difficult to replicate, especially after the Bengals made an 0-2 start to the season with defeats to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys.

    But the concern from that early disappointment has long since dissipated, with Burrow once authoring an increasingly impressive follow-up to his outstanding 2021 campaign.

    Continually perfect placement

    He reached a highpoint for the 2022 season on Sunday by once again outduelling Patrick Mahomes in an undulating thrill ride in Cincinnati, exhibiting the accuracy that defined the Bengals' unexpected 2021 ascension.

    The former number one overall pick delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on 87.1 per cent of his pass attempts, according to Stats Perform data, his superb ball placement helping him complete 25 of his 31 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. Burrow also opened the scoring with a rushing touchdown.

    While the final stat line in terms of yardage may not be eye-popping, Burrow averaged 9.23 yards per attempt, his precision as a passer ensuring the Bengals maintained offensive efficiency that is critical against the Chiefs.

    Burrow ended the game with a completion percentage of 80.6, over five per cent higher than his expected completion percentage of 75.4.

    And yet, even in a game where Burrow was deadly accurate, the Bengals averaged 8.7 yards per pass play and Ja'Marr Chase had 97 yards on seven catches on his return from injury, it could be argued the Bengals did not fire on all cylinders.

    Though they moved the ball well, the Bengals went three of seven in the red zone, with Tyler Boyd committing a crucial drop on a would-be touchdown on third down in the third quarter, and Burrow regularly had to make plays with his legs when pass protection that has improved this season broke down.

    Normally such missed opportunities as the Bengals had inside the 20-yard line would be fatal against the Chiefs and the most feared quarterback of his generation, but since Burrow returned from the knee injury that prematurely ended his rookie year to reassume command of the offense in 2021, he and Cincinnati have become experts in finding a way to prevail against any calibre of this opposition.

    On this occasion versus the Chiefs, it was success in finding balance that saw them navigate a path to a win over the team that entered Week 13 as the AFC's number one seed.

    Yin and Yang

    Cincinnati's passing game was complemented by a ground attack that took advantage of Kansas City's vulnerability defending the run.

    Backup running back Samaje Perine averaged five yards per carry, with the efforts of the offensive line aiding him in putting up 3.29 yards before contact per rush, the sixth-most among backs with at least 10 carries in Week 13.

    More critical, though, was the fourth-quarter defiance of the defense, which, despite struggling to get Mahomes off the field, came up with two crucial stops when the Bengals needed them most.

    Germaine Pratt forced and recovered a fumble from Travis Kelce on a 19-yard reception to set up a go-ahead touchdown for the Bengals, on which Burrow found a wide-open Chris Evans after Boyd redeemed himself with a key third-down catch, and Joseph Ossai – who missed all of his rookie year due to injury – showcased his pass-rushing prowess and his motor to bring down Mahomes for a sack on third and short, ending the Chiefs' subsequent drive and forcing a long game-tying field goal attempt that Harrison Butker pushed wide right.

    That gave Burrow the chance to kill the game in the final minutes and, after a second-down sack that appeared as if it might give the Chiefs one more chance, he extinguished any lingering Kansas City hope with one final display of his elite marksmanship.

    Under pressure from Derrick Nnadi, Burrow calmly delivered a perfect ball to Tee Higgins over the middle as the Bengals ran a slant-flat concept, his throw delivered with the timing and anticipation to dart into the grasp of Higgins and defeat the excellent coverage of rookie Joshua Williams, ensuring Cincinnati picked up a first down on third-and-11 and ended the ball game.

    Since Week 6, when the Bengals set off a run that has seen them win six of their past seven games, Burrow leads the NFL in completion percentage (72.3) and passing touchdowns (16), while he is third in yards per attempt (8.55), showcasing the kind of form that lifted the Bengals to the Super Bowl last season.

    While he was both devastatingly accurate and efficient in Sunday's engrossing victory, it was a Bengals performance that, a week on from a hard-fought 20-16 win over the Tennessee Titans, further demonstrated they do not necessarily need Burrow to carry the entire burden of their hopes on his shoulders.

    Against Kansas City, the Bengals used a balanced offensive approach to win the time of possession battle – Cincinnati limiting the Chiefs' opportunities by holding the ball for over four minutes more than their high-powered opponents – and delivered defensive stops in the crucial moments.

    But such key plays may not have borne fruit had Burrow not answered the bell with an unstoppable throw to Higgins when it was all on his shoulders.

    There is the talent on the Bengals' roster that Burrow doesn't have to do everything, but approaching the end of his third season as pro, the overwhelming evidence is that he can.

    This latest win over the Chiefs does indeed represent the zenith of 2022 for Burrow and the Bengals to this point. The exciting thing for Cincinnati, though, is that, for as much as he impressed, it was not Burrow's best performance of the season.

    The ceiling for the Cincinnati offense is higher than what the Bengals produced in Week 13, and the fact they weren't required to reach it to knock off Kansas City once more should offer substantial encouragement to the reigning AFC champions, and terrify the rest of the conference looking to usurp them.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.