Chelsea issued £70m Antonio Rudiger warning as Frank Lampard told he’s to blame

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Paul Merson has claimed that former Chelsea boss Frank Lampard is to blame for the current contract stalemate with Antonio Rudiger as the Blues look to set to lose the German defender for nothing next summer.

Rudiger is now in the final few months of his current deal at Stamford Bridge and is free to negotiate a move with foreign teams from January.

So far, Chelsea have failed in their attempts to tie the 28-year-old down to a new long-term deal.

The Blues are desperate to hang onto the powerful defender, who has evolved into a pivotal player under Thomas Tuchel after suffering a torrid time at Stamford Bridge under Tuchel’s predecessor, Lampard.

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And ex-Arsenal ace Merson believes that it’s Lampard, not Tuchel, who would be to blame if Rudiger does run his contract down and depart London for nothing.

Merson feels that Lampard’s reluctance to utilise the centre half during his time at the helm has hampered Chelsea’s attempts to tie Rudiger down to a new deal – and he also believes it could cost the Blues a huge sum of money to replace the all-action defender.

“Chelsea are going to miss Antonio Rudiger when he goes because it will take £60-70m to replace him,” Merson said in his weekly column for Daily Star Sport.

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“Rudiger is definitely leaving. If he wanted to sign a new contract he would have done it by now. There’s no chance he stays now.

“But it’s not Thomas Tuchel’s fault. I think he made his mind up to go when Frank Lampard had him out of the team.

“And even though he’s been phenomenal since Tuchel brought him back in, and they won the Champions League, Rudiger hasn’t forgotten.

“Teams will be queuing round the block now to sign him, and someone will pay him a lorryload of money to join them.

“He’s been one of Chelsea’s two best players all season for me and he won’t be easy to replace – but Tuchel should already be thinking about who to go for.

“There just aren’t many world class centre backs around any more, and the ones who are will cost a small fortune.

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“That’s why I don’t understand it when clubs let a player run down their contract like this. It makes no sense at all and it does my head in.”

Whether it’s his fault or not, Tuchel could be left facing up to a defensive crisis next year.

Along with Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva and Cesar Azipilicueta are all due to be free agents in the summer.

Although deals for Thiago and Azpilicueta are anticipated to be relatively straightforward, Christensen’s future is currently in doubt; so much so that Tuchel admitted earlier this week that he’d dropped the Danish defender from his squad.

If that tough stance doesn’t work, then the Blues could be set to lose two key defenders for nothing in the next few months.

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