Thomas Tuchel has revealed Germany defender Antonio Rudiger will leave Chelsea when his contract expires at the end of this season.
Tuchel had hoped to persuade Rudiger to stay at Stamford Bridge, but the centre-back has opted to end his five-year spell with the Premier League club.
Chelsea’s attempts to keep Rudiger were hampered by the British government’s sanctions on Russian owner Roman Abramovich, which included a rule that existing players could not sign new contracts.
The Blues are believed to have made a contract offer to Rudiger prior to the sanctions, but the deal was never finalised after a request was reportedly made for large signing-on and agent fees.
The 29-year-old, who arrived in west London from Roma in 2017, is reported to be keen on a move to Real Madrid, with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain also interested in offering him a lucrative free agent deal.
“Toni, the media is on it. The situation is that he wants to leave the club. He informed me of this is in a private talk,” Tuchel said after Sunday’s 1-0 win against West Ham.
“We gave everything, me and the club, but we could not fight anymore because of the actions. Without the sanctions we would at least be able to carry on fighting, but our hands are tied. We don’t take it personally. It is his decision.”
Rudiger had established himself as a vital presence in Tuchel’s defence, with his leadership and whole-hearted displays making him a fan favourite.
He missed the victory over West Ham due to a groin injury but was watching the match from the stands.
Tuchel admitted Rudiger’s departure will be a big blow to a team that won the Champions League and Club World Cup thanks in part to his rock-solid displays.
“He is a key figure and will stay that way until the end of the season. But it is disappointing. We will miss him a lot,” Tuchel said.
“He gives courage in the dressing room. The kind everyone is afraid of, but the kind to play 50-55 games at an outstanding level.
“He is a top defender in the last one and a half years for me. We then need to find another solution.”