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Antonio Rudiger & Emenalo: Why Chelsea's chief on his case for three years

Three attempts in three years. Antonio Rudiger and Chelsea. Is this the week Michael Emenalo finally gets his man?

Talk of a Monday medical for the AS Roma defender now appears premature. But negotiations are underway - and they have been since Roma were alerted to Kostas Manolas going AWOL from a scheduled meeting with Zenit St Petersburg.

With the Greek pulling back from moving to Russia, Roma gave sports director Monchi the green light to entertain talks with Chelsea over Rudiger's sale.

For the moment, in the mad scramble, it's difficult to nail down some facts. For some in Italy, the deal is done: €33 million cash up front, with another €5 million due in bonuses. Rudiger will be in London on Monday, it's claimed, for a medical.

Erm, not so fast. A bit of ringing around on Saturday and Tribalfootball.com has learned Rudiger's half-brother, Sahr Senesie, hasn't been in London since the end of last season. And there were no plans for the agent to fly into the city over the weekend. That's not to say negotiations have stalled. On the contrary, we're hearing a fee is being thrashed out of between €35-40 million. The €40 million valuation is Roma's idea. For Chelsea, they're reluctant to go higher than €35 million. For the moment, both clubs are happy for intermediaries to negotiate on their behalf before the heavy hitters of Monchi and Marina Granovskaia, Chelsea's chief dealmaker, step in.

"If I kept up with the newspapers I would have left last year and maybe again during the season," laughed Rudiger last week. "These are things I leave to my brother.

"When I was injured, they said I would go to Chelsea, yet I'm still here. The market is not my area, but I can tell you I'm happy in Rome."

As Rudiger hints, he really should already be a Chelsea player. A year ago, with the ink on Antonio Conte's contract barely dry, Chelsea's technical director Michael Emenalo had a deal in place for the Germany international.

The plan was simple. After a successful year on-loan from VfB Stuttgart, Roma would buy Rudiger outright for €9 million and sell him onto Chelsea after the Euros for €20 million. Having been beaten by Monchi's predecessor at Roma, Walter Sabatini, to Rudiger's signature the previous year, Emenalo had a deal in place. But then came the news in the first week of June: Rudiger had broken down in Germany training. The diagnosis? A torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Rudiger's Euros campaign was over - and his move to Chelsea off.

But a year on and everyone is again around the negotiating table. Conte's opinion hasn't changed. Nor has Emenalo's. And while Rudiger is diplomatic in public, he has hinted after two years in Italy's capital he's ready for the next phase in his career.

"Rome has been good for me. My first step abroad as a young man.

"(But) my goal is to improve year upon year. It is nothing personal. It is about me, not the club."

Rudiger does acknowledge the extra year in Italy has helped develop his defensive game.

"Definitely. I have improved mainly tactically, which is the main reason why I came to Italy. Here, this is where you learn about defending and tactics. I've learned a lot. It was the right step.

"You go to Chievo and find the pitch's grass very high and terribly dry. Then at other grounds it's the opposite situation. The Italians know how to defend, but also how to attack. I've faced many great strikers playing here. It's taken me to extremes just to match them."

Twelve months on and Chelsea are willing to go higher to convince Roma to sell. And Stuttgart, despite some bitterness over the manner of Rudiger's departure, are rubbing their hands with glee. A ten per cent sell-on clause will guarantee a tidy windfall for the German club from a player many didn't rate inside the club.

"I heard that," Rudiger recently reflected. "But it's not something I worry about. What people outside say means little to me. I was always confident I would succeed here.

"Look, I spent many years at VfB and owe them a lot. But when you're fighting against relegation every year, that's no coincidence.

"We footballers are egoists. But in Roma, it's more about the team."

Beyond his ability on the pitch, it's that raw honesty which has also attracted Emenalo these past three years. Just last month, Rudiger went public against Italy's football establishment, urging FIFA to intervene after a series of racist incidents over the past season. For a dressing room undergoing such major change as Chelsea's, Rudiger's strength of character and purpose will be welcome.

Sabatini, now in charge of transfers at Inter Milan, confirmed the doubts people had about Rudiger when signing the defender two years ago.

"Rudiger? A magnificent player," he said last week. "Some laughed at the beginning, but now we know he has become a very important player."

Sabatini and Inter are keen, but Rudiger, we've been told, sees such a move as a step sideways. His heart is now set on Chelsea, with it emerging today that he's texted several Roma teammates informing them of his decision.

After two failed attempts, it appears third time lucky for Chelsea and Emenalo. And more importantly, a deal that even Conte approves of.


Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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