The fact that Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rüdiger's contract at Chelsea are set to expire next summer is no longer news and the club has yet to agree on contract extensions with both players for various reasons. While Rüdiger allegedly wants a higher salary than Chelsea are willing to pay, Christensen is said to have asked for a contract cut from four to two years as the club believe the signing is a deal.
Whatever the reason, in fact both players will become free agents next summer and will be able to speak to other teams from January unless they and Chelsea reach an agreement beforehand. While it seems unlikely that both players will leave, it is possible and the sooner Chelsea start preparing for this scenario, the safer the club will be.
If Rüdiger and Christensen leave, Chelsea will have to replace at least one centre-back (provided Thiago Silva and Cesar Aspilicueta, both on one-year contracts, sign extensions). After these two players were eliminated, only the top two, Trevo Chaloba and Malang Sar, remained as central defenders.
Chelsea have three main options if both players decide to leave. The first option is to hire a new defense attorney, the second is to get someone promoted from the academy, and the third is a combination of the first two. Jules Kunde and Matthias De Ligt are Chelsea's main defenders if they choose the first option. Chelsea are also rumored to have reached an agreement for Attila Salai from Fenerbahce. Each of these solutions has advantages and disadvantages.
Jules is a capable defender who should be a match for Chelsea, but his price tag could be enough to meet Rudiger's payment demands. He also prefers the right full-back position, which is already occupied by Aspilicueta and Chalobah.
Matthias De Ligt, who apparently earns around £200,000 a week at Juventus, isn't cheap either. If you believe the rumours, Rüdiger insists on staying at the club. Chelsea would be foolish to let the Germany player in top form leave and then sign his representatives for the amount and contract he demands. De Ligt, on the other hand, can easily get out in the middle of a three-way defense occupied by Christensen, and his quality is undeniable.
Salai, on the other hand, is the cheapest option, the 23-year-old Hungarian worth around £20m. The main problem is that he has not shown his worth at the highest level and has concerns about his ability to fit in with Chelsea. If Chelsea wanted to plan for Rüdiger and Christensen's early departures, they could sponsor academy graduates.
Levi Colville, Ethan Ampadou and Xavier Mbuyamba are currently Chelsea's top three centre-backs. Mbuyamba actually started training with the Chelsea first team. While none of these players could match the players who could leave if Thomas Tuchel gave them the chance, at least one of them, like Chalobah, could take advantage of it. Combining the two would be the third option. This means recruiting substitutes and promoting players from the academy. Salai's signing, for example, and Ampadu remain in the team for next season.
Both Rudiger and Christensen or at least one of them staying, would be the best decision Chelsea will ever make. The Blues would be foolish not to do their utmost to keep at least one of the two players at the club for the next season.
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