Real Madrid aren’t just signing a world-class centre-back in Antonio Rüdiger, but one of football’s true characters. The German international decided to leave Chelsea at the end of his contract after five seasons with the London club, where he won the Champions League in 2021, the Europa League in 2019 and the FA Cup in 2018, among other trophies.
The German, at 1.90m, is an aerial presence in both boxes. If any Real Madrid fans have been missing Sergio Ramos, they should look forward to this new arrival. He is proactive and throws himself into tackles with unparalleled aggression, making him a terrifying prospect for opposition forwards to tangle with and a delight for his own supporters to roar on.
Playing with his heart on his sleeve, Rüdiger is also a threat with the ball at his feet, driving the team forward from the back and not being shy of a shot from distance. He finished his spell at Chelsea with 12 goals in 203 appearances across all competitions, while he is also a strong passer and capable of taking opponents on and trying skilful manoeuvres, atypically for a defender.
Born in Berlin to a German father and Sierra Leonean mother, he ended up making his breakthrough in professional football at Stuttgart, debuting in the 2011/12 season in the Bundesliga.
AS Roma loaned Rüdiger in August 2015 and executed a purchase option the following summer. Chelsea then pounced in 2017 to buy him and he instantly became an important player for Antonio Conte, playing 45 games in his first campaign, including a start in the FA Cup final win over Manchester United.
Rüdiger also enjoyed life under Maurizio Sarri the following year, but under Frank Lampard fell out of favour. Tuchel’s arrival in January 2021 changed things for him and, over the last year and a half, he has been undroppable.
Real Madrid experienced Rüdiger’s quality on multiple occasions in that time, as Chelsea eliminated them in last season’s Champions League semi-finals. This season Carlo Ancelotti’s team got their revenge, although Rüdiger still shone in the second leg at the Bernabéu, scoring in the visitors’ 3-2 victory, making an early impression on his new fans.
Now, here comes five interesting facts about Rüdiger that his new fanbase might not have been aware of.
His nickname was ‘Rambo’
As a youngster in Berlin, his nickname was ‘Rambo’ for the aggression he used to play with on the concrete pitches in his neighbourhood. It’s no wonder he likes to throw himself into tackles on the grass and is viewed as a leader by his teammates.
Known for throwing shapes
Rüdiger is known for his dance moves in the dressing room and they are often showcased by his Chelsea teammates on their social media feeds. He doesn’t need a drink before throwing shapes either; as a practicing Muslim, he abstains from alcohol.
Rüdiger’s striking ambition
Rüdiger used to idolise strikers, including Liberia and AC Milan forward George Weah, as well as former Real Madrid hitman Ronaldo Nazário. He started off as a striker himself before converting into a defender. These days, when he gets the chance to shoot, he still takes it.
His visits to children in hospital
Even though opponents hate going up against him, Rüdiger regularly showed his kinder side by attending Chelsea and Westminster Hospital during his time at the club to visit children who were patients there, as well as staff. The defender even made a farewell visit before his move to Real Madrid. Rüdiger also says if he wasn’t a footballer then he would be a doctor, although he’s afraid of seeing blood.
Admiration for Pepe
Real Madrid fans might be interested to hear that Rüdiger’s dream centre-back partner, given the chance to pick any player in the history of football, would be former Los Blancos star Pepe. “He’s always at the edge, sometimes over it, but that’s the way I like it,” said Rüdiger. “People just see the aggression in him, but the way he plays football, it’s classy.”