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What Chelsea’s £34m signing of Antonio Rudiger means for Conte’s defensive prospects

Chelsea are set to sign Roma’s German international centre-back Antonio Rudiger for a reported £34m fee.

At just 24 he has already won 17 caps for the national team and was part of the squad that won the Confederations Cup. Rudiger finished second with Roma last season conceding goals at a quite remarkable rate of one per game – this would usually be enough to secure the Scudetto but they happened to be playing at the same time as one of the greatest Juventus teams of all time.

Rudiger could’ve opted to play for Sierra Leone due to his mother’s background but chose to play for country of his birth. As a child he skirted about a few different youth clubs before settling on Dortmund in 2008 at the age of 15 but left after three years to go to Stuttgart: the club that gave him his chance in the first team.

In January 2012, he made his first-team debut against Dortmund. Stuttgart’s mid-table life allowed Rudiger to stand out and it wasn’t long before a European giant in the shape of Roma came knocking with a deal initially worth £3.5million but eventually turned to £7.9million.

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The decision to leave Roma is partly down to the truly horrific abuse he has received in Italy and specifically in the Rome derby in March 2017 from the Lazio fans, even Lazio players have made snide comments, specifically Senad Lulic who made racial remarks toward him, resulting in Lazio having to come out and apologise on his behalf.

So what should we come to expect from him? Well he’s a huge man, standing at 6’3” and having the bulk to back it up, Rudiger will not shy away from the physical challenge of the Premier League and has a similar style of play to his compatriot Jerome Boateng, although when asked about this Rudiger replied with ‘it’s a compliment, but I am Antonio Rudiger’, so clearly he is fairly self-confident.

But where will he fit in at Chelsea? Conte was fully aware that despite winning the league last season Chelsea were in dire need of some serious upgrades but also reinforcements.  Not being in Europe undoubtedly played a huge part in Chelsea’s success but they will not have the same luxury next year so the squad need bulking up.

Rudiger will be expected to challenge Cesar Azpilicueta for the spot on the right-hand side of the back three, however by purchasing another strong centre back, as opposed to the flamboyant David Luiz, Conte has given himself the option of pushing Azpilicueta to the right-hand side and playing a normal back four.

Although it is unlikely that Chelsea will sell any of the title-winning defence, it could well be shuffled about. Rudiger is a stronger option than Gary Cahill and arguably a much better defender than David Luiz. However, each of those two provides something that Rudiger does not, flair and leadership – it will be intriguing to see how Conte manages the situation.  Rudiger is a very good fit for The Blues but we shall soon see. This may kick-start a busy summer for the West London club and hopefully Rudiger’s arrival marks the first of many.

Written by Olly Norman.

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