One way Antonio Rudiger gets overlooked

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Real Madrid seem to be ready to go all-in on Chelsea center back Antonio Rudiger as their top defensive target in the 2022 summer transfer window. Like No. 1 overall target Kylian Mbappe, Rudiger is a free agent and can be signed in January to a pre-agreement, assuming nothing changes regarding the financial impasse with the Blues in contract negotiations.

There are other high-profile clubs interested in Rudiger. The German international has interest from Bundesliga powerhouse Bayern Munich, though they are not known for paying high salaries. Otherwise, why did David Alaba end up in Madrid? PSG are also competitors, and they appear to have significant interest in Rudiger. He could very well end up there, though their financial power may not be enough if Rudiger’s dream is to play for a club with Real’s tradition.

So as of right now, many people have Los Blancos penciled in as the favorites to sign Rudiger. The money paid out in wages will not worry Florentino Perez, because they seem confident in Rudiger’s quality.

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Part of that confidence stems from Rudiger’s passion and defensive quality, which we saw first-hand in Chelsea’s march to the 2020-2021 Champions League title. It was by far the best season of Rudiger’s career, and the former Stuttgart and Roma man has only enhanced his reputation by continuing his form under Thomas Tuchel here in 2021-2022.

Rudiger has been a standout passer in the PL and UCL

But there is another reason why Real Madrid have confidence in Rudiger as a center back signing, and it has to do with something about the veteran defender’s game that very often gets overlooked when praising him.

According to WhoScored.com, Rudiger top five in the Premier League among center backs with 0.7 key passes per game. And in the Champions League, he was also in the top five for passes per game at center back with around 89. No player in the group stages of the competition had more passes into the final third than Rudiger. Toni Kroos was second.

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Moreover, per FBref.com, Rudiger is 16th in the Premier League in progressive passes. He is 11th in passes into the final third and also 11th in total pass completions. Rudiger was also 15th in progressive passes and fifth in total pass completions in the Champions League group stages. The 28-year-old has completed 88.5 percent of his passes in Europe to go with one assist.

As you can see, Rudiger is very impressive on the ball. Most importantly, he is a progressive passer who keeps the ball moving forward for Chelsea. That matters to Real Madrid. Sergio Ramos set a benchmark for passing at center back, and his replacement with the No. 4 kit, David Alaba, has been just as good. Eder Militao is an underrated young star, but, he, too, is a talented passer who can create goal-scoring chances from nothing with a teasing ball from deep.

Real Madrid need center backs who are comfortable on the ball when being pressed, so they like accurate short passers. They want center backs who can help progress the ball when they have the majority of possession, and the numbers show Rudiger is adept at this, too. And finally, they want center backs who can make accurate passes in transition that create chances, and the Chelsea man’s key passes in the Premier League offer evidence of this.

You can see why Tuchel desperately wants the Blues to pay Rudiger. He was always this good and just needed a competent manager to get the most out of him. Now that Rudiger is shining, he could take another step in his career at Real Madrid, where he looks like a great fit on paper, especially when you peel back the numbers and see just how good of a passer he really is. We don’t see this discussed enough about Rudiger, but it could ultimately be why Los Merengues decide to pay the German star what Chelsea won’t.

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