Reports in England claim Chelsea are facing a major battle to keep key defender Antonio Rudiger with no resolution to talks over a new contract in sight.
Having offered the Germany international, who has become a key man during the Thomas Tuchel regime, a new deal worth in the region of £125,000-per-week, the Blues are now facing up to the very real prospect of losing Rudiger for nothing next year when his contract expires.
So far nothing has been agreed between the player and club over an extension – with no resolution believed to be imminent.
Indeed, Rudiger is fully focused on helping Chelsea to another successful season and is in no rush to sign his next contract, preferring to concentrate on his performances on the pitch.
Chelsea have made a promising start to the new season as they look to retain their Champions League title and win their first Premier League crown since 2017, with Rudiger keen to ensure the uncertainty over his future does not become a distraction.
It leaves the ball firmly in Chelsea’s court with regards to securing the long-term future of their crucial defender.
It remains to be seen whether Chelsea return with an improved offer in their attempts to keep Rudiger beyond the end of the season.
Indeed, their effort to persuade Rudiger to commit to the club are complicated by growing interest in the former Roma star.
According to the Daily Mail, Paris Saint Germain, Juventus, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are among the clubs interested in signing Rudiger on a free transfer next summer.
All four clubs can offer Rudiger hugely lucrative personal terms, significantly more than the Blues have currently offered, given they would not be required to pay a transfer fee.
Thomas Tuchel has heaped praise on Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku who has scored four goals for the club in all competitions since his return to Stamford Bridge in the summer.
The Belgian’s goal against Zenit St Petersburg made all the difference as the west London club flagged off the defence of the Champions League trophy they won last season.
Lukaku’s chances were limited as Zenit defended well and with real resilience but he pounced on the first opportunity he was given to score with a towering header.
Chelsea struggled to make any impression in the first half but it was clear Tuchel had ordered his players to move through the gears and they were much more forceful after the break.
“The performance from Romelu was not easy. We didn’t create many chances for him but he’s the type of guy who doesn’t lose confidence and belief. And that is why he is a world-class striker,” Tuchel said of the world class Belgian, via Sky Sports.
“He’s super important, it’s as easy as that. You don’t find many strikers of his quality. We did win also without Romelu and produced results. But he was the type of profile we were missing, not just because of the talent but because of the personality.
“He is such a humble guy, a super communicator in the dressing room, and that creates a certain energy around him in the team that we are proud of and what to have.
“The spirit and atmosphere last year took us very far and it’s important we have it again. We have it with Romelu, he knows what the club is about. We have him and we are very pleased because he gives everybody around him confidence.”
Tuchel had earlier told BT Sport: “You need the energy from the crowd and it was a fantastic atmosphere.
“It was an excellent header [from Lukaku for the goal], a well timed cross by Azpilicueta. He was brave enough to step up and we had bodies in the box.
“That’s why he [Lukaku] is here. He likes to score and he’s decisive for us.”
A Thomas Muller strike and a brilliant brace from Robert Lewandowski earn Bayern a comprehensive win at Barcelona in their opening Champions League game on Tuesday in another brutal demonstration of the gulf in class between the two sides.
It’s the first time in 22 years that Barca have lost their opening Champions League game.
Bayern didn’t really need to get out of second gear.
Muller gave Bayern the lead in the 34th minute with a strike from outside the area which deflected off Barca defender Eric Garcia to confound goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Lewandowski struck the German champions’ second in the 54th, tapping into the net from close range on the rebound after Jamal Musiala had hit the post as Bayern made a rampant start following the interval, hemming their hosts into their own half.
The Polish striker twisted the knife further into Barcelona by scoring again in the 85th, collecting the ball in the area after another shot had come back off the post and tormenting the defence before calmly beating Ter Stegen in the Group E clash.
The scoreline was not quite as damning for Barca as the 8-2 drubbing Bayern gave them in the quarterfinals two seasons ago but the performance was just as hopeless as they were routinely dispossessed and struggled to cope with the visitors’ intensity.
Barca made a promising start in their first Champions League game in front of supporters at the Camp Nou since December 2019, although while the crowd was limited to 40,000 due to coronavirus restrictions there were fewer fans in attendance owing to a lack of appetite for the post-Lionel Messi era.
But Bayern soon showed their superiority and it took a strong hand from Ter Stegen to prevent Leroy Sane giving the Germans the lead, while Gerard Pique had to slide across the ground to block a goal-bound strike from Musiala.
Barcelona’s only real attempt on goal in the first half came from a free kick, defender Ronald Araujo meeting Memphis Depay’s cross and heading just over the bar.
Bayern finally took the lead their play merited through Muller, who scored twice in the 8-2 hammering of Barca in Lisbon and has now netted seven times against the Catalans in Europe’s top competition.
Paris Saint-Germain manager Mauricio Pochettino believes Chelsea are once again the ‘team to beat’ in the Champions League this season.
The Blues were crowned champions of European football for the second time earlier this year, as they beat Manchester City 1-0 in the final thanks to Kai Havertz’s goal.
Lukaku scored the only goal of the game on Tuesday, as Chelsea got the defence of their crown off to a winning start at Stamford Bridge against Zenit Saint Petersburg.
Speaking before Chelsea kicked off against Zenit, Pochettino, the former manager of Tottenham Hotspur, said he thinks Tuchel’s outfit will be difficult to beat again, ESPN reports.
“It’s possible that Chelsea and ourselves are the two teams to beat on paper, looking at our squads, but Chelsea are the holders so they’re the team to beat especially after strengthening their squad,” said the PSG boss.
“We’re not a team yet. We are a club that has recruited many players this summer. There are some big names but we have to turn into a team.
“We know that we’ll be judged at the end of the season on our results. The pressure is there for all the clubs and we know that for a number of years, the Champions League is PSG’s main objective.”
PSG went on a remarkable recruitment drive in the summer, signing Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos, Georginio Wijnaldum, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi and more.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been told that the only reason for him to keep his job at the Old Trafford is for him to win trophies for the club.
According to the club legend Rio Ferdinand, Solskjaer will face the sack at Manchester United if he does not deliver trophies this season after the Red Devils lost to Young Boys on Tuesday.
Solskjaer’s side were deservedly beaten by Young Boys in their first Champions League group stage match of the season, after being dominated by the Swiss side for most of the 90 minutes.
United took the lead through Cristiano Ronaldo but Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s first-half red card changed the course of the game, with the resilient Young Boys scoring twice after half-time, including a 95-minute winner from Jesse Lingard’s mistake.
The result represented United’s first loss of the season and after suffering a Champions League exit in the group stages last season, Ferdinand has ramped up the pressure on Red Devils Solskjaer, reiterating that the Norwegian has yet to prove he is a trophy-winning manager yet.
“Of all the managers in the top-four fight, Ole hasn’t proved he can win at this level yet”, Ferdinand told BT Sport on Tuesday night.
“He’s done what he’s been asked to do up until this point. Now its D-Day.
“It’s his squad, shaped by him, a wonderful transfer window just gone, bringing in winners, people that can change the culture of this club.
“Now he’ll be judged properly. Now you’ve got to convert that to trophies and if he doesn’t his head will be on the chopping block like any other manager.”
The Red Devils are tipped to enjoy a good season after making high-profile signings such as Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho this summer.
Solskjaer’s side have enjoyed a good start to the season, claiming victories over Leeds, Wolves and Newcastle which means they currently top the Premier League.
United started their evening in Switzerland brightly when Ronaldo scored his third goal in two games since rejoining the club from Juventus last month, but matters soon turned sour in Bern.
Wan-Bissaka was dismissed for a high tackle on Young Boys’ Christopher Martins and United were second-best against their opponents from that point.
Moumi Ngamaleu got ahead of Raphael Varane with just under 25 minutes left to restore parity for the Swiss side, before Jordan Siebatcheu picked up Lingard’s poor backpass to David de Gea to seal the win in the last victory of the game.