Chelsea's new big money buys

The Blues’ first two big sum­mer sign­ings will add some much-needed depth and flex­i­bil­ity to An­to­nio Conte’s cham­pi­ons

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An­to­nio Rudi­ger is noth­ing if not a hardy soul. He has been used to meet­ing lofty expectations for some time now, which is a good job con­sid­er­ing he will be fill­ing a de­fen­sive berth for the Premier League cham­pi­ons which many hoped would be taken up by Milan’s new sign­ing, Leonardo Bonucci.

Al­lied to the fact that adapt­ing to English foot­ball is a steep climb for de­fend­ers in par­tic­u­lar, Rudi­ger has a tricky task ahead, but those who know him don’t ex­pect him to be fazed.

It al­ready feels like the 24-year-old has been around for a very long time, hav­ing made his Bun­desliga de­but for Stuttgart back in Jan­uary 2012 at the age of 18. Even then, the tall, strong and ath­letic Rudi­ger looked ready, but it’s the men­tal side of his game that has con­tin­u­ally im­pressed the most. His ma­tu­rity helped him to se­cure a place in the Ger­many squad for the 2014 World Cup, com­plete a move to Roma in 2015 and over­come the heart­break of miss­ing out on Euro 2016 with a cru­ci­ate knee lig­a­ment in­jury. He came back stronger, de­vel­op­ing into one of Serie A’s best de­fend­ers, im­prov­ing his pass­ing and show­cas­ing his adapt­abil­ity in a back three as well as a four – flex­i­bil­ity that’ll prove pretty use­ful to Conte.

The rise of Tiemoue Bakayoko (below right) hasn’t been quite so steady – or at least, not un­til the in­ter­ven­tion of a Chelsea leg­end.

When he ar­rived at Monaco as a teenager in 2014, some thought the mid­fielder was a lit­tle too re­laxed, and he found it quite tough to make an im­me­di­ate im­pact in the first-team squad.

The most cel­e­brated turn­ing point was the 2016 ar­rival of Claude Makelele as sport­ing di­rec­tor. The Chelsea old boy didn’t last very long, stay­ing only five months af­ter strug­gling to find a suit­able role in the club’s man­age­ment struc­ture. Yet his im­pact on Bakayako, with whom he quickly formed a strong bond, was a last­ing one. And Makelele didn’t mince his words, in­struct­ing Bakayoko to take bet­ter care of his body, fine-tun­ing his ath­leti­cism and ease on the ball. Not too long af­ter, Bakayako chose to ditch his idyl­lic villa in Ville­franche-sur-mer and moved into a much smaller apart­ment, while he started box­ing dur­ing his spare time. Yet while Bakayoko is now known for his en­ergy and phys­i­cal power, he is so much more than that. “He’s a player ca­pa­ble of run­ning matches,” said Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim, “of or­gan­is­ing the team, of get­ting the ball mov­ing and of win­ning bat­tles.”

His abil­ity to play on the front foot will be vi­tal to keep­ing the Chelsea tempo up this term, due to the club’s busier cal­en­dar. The thought of him dove­tail­ing with N’golo Kante – with whom he hopes to play along­side for France – at Chelsea in the same way he did with Fabinho at Monaco will be one that’ll have Blues fans sali­vat­ing.

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