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Saturday, November 12, 2022

Andreas Christensen made himself unavailable for Chelsea at FA Cup final | Chelsea

Andreas Christensen limited Chelsea’s defensive options in the FA Cup final by making himself unavailable for selection on the day of the game.

Christensen, who is poised to join Barcelona on a free transfer at the end of the season, was a surprise absentee from the squad that lost on penalties against Liverpool at Wembley on Saturday. He was not carrying an injury and told Thomas Tuchel of his decision on Saturday morning.

It is understood that he had not been feeling well during the week and informed Chelsea’s head coach that he was not ready to play. Christensen had managed to start Chelsea’s win against Leeds last Wednesday.

Tuchel made no mention of the centre-back being injured before or after the Liverpool game. Christensen’s teammates were said to be shocked and confused when the Denmark international left the team hotel.

It is unclear if Christensen was going to start against Liverpool, though sources suggested he was going to be a substitute. But if he had not started the final he would have been a candidate to come off the bench at Wembley after Thiago Silva sustained an early injury. Silva soldiered on and finished the game but the 37‑year‑old was walking with a heavy limp as he exited Wembley.

Tuchel will have a chance to talk about Christensen before Chelsea, whose defence will be weakened further when Antonio Rüdiger joins Real Madrid, face Leicester on Thursday. Last week, though, the club’s head coach admitted the Dane’s decision to join Barça has affected his form.

Christensen was substituted at half-time during Chelsea’s defeats by Real Madrid and Arsenal last month, and he has been in an awkward position after talks over a contract extension hit a dead end earlier this season.

Chelsea twice had verbal agreements with Christensen for a new deal, only for the defender to change his mind on both occasions. The player later hired new representatives, who wanted to start negotiations from scratch. Chelsea’s board took a different view.

The situation has not gone down well at Stamford Bridge. But there is no bitterness towards Rüdiger, even though the Germany centre-back is also leaving on a free. The feeling is that Rüdiger, who has agreed a four-year deal with Madrid, has not messed Chelsea around. He had another fine game against Liverpool.

Antonio Rüdiger
Antonio Rüdiger is leaving Chelsea at the end of the season. Photograph: Robbie Jay Barratt/AMA/Getty Images

Rüdiger made it clear after the Wembley defeat that the sanctions imposed on Roman Abramovich had nothing to do with his decision to move to the Bernabéu. Chelsea offered the 29-year-old player, who earns around £90,000 a week, £230,000 a week to stay and would have made him the highest paid defender in the club’s history. But the negotiations broke down when Chelsea received a request for a signing‑on bonus and large fees for the player’s representatives.

Talks could not resume after Abramovich was hit with sanctions. Yet Rüdiger suggested Chelsea had a chance of keeping him. “I don’t want to go too deep into things,” he said. “There was a chance. But sanctions is not the reason.”

Losing Rüdiger and Christensen is a huge blow. Chelsea, who could also allow César Azpilicueta to join Barcelona, may need to bring in two centre-backs this summer. They have looked at Sevilla’s Jules Koundé, Atlético Madrid’s José María Giménez, Leicester’s Wesley Fofana and RB Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol.

Strengthening the defence will be a major priority for Todd Boehly once his consortium has bought the club from Abramovich. Tuchel met Boehly for the first time last Thursday but is yet to talk to the American about transfers.

“We had lunch together but it was in the room where everybody was, like players and staff,” Tuchel said. “He was very friendly, very open and it was a very informal meeting over lunch. It was like half an hour, 40 minutes, so it was not too detailed. It was just to get a feeling and say hello, and we talked more about baseball and basketball actually. It was not the moment. We will do this in the next weeks.”

Chelsea must make decisions over Jorginho and N’Golo Kanté, with both midfielders out of contract next year, while there are doubts over Romelu Lukaku’s future. Tuchel admitted that it will be difficult for Chelsea to catch up with Liverpool and Manchester City this summer.

“It’s maybe impossible, I have to say,” he said. “They are improving their squad in every transfer window. It seems like we are losing key players. We are losing Toni, we’re losing Andreas. This is tough and we already have a gap to close.”

Tuchel defended Mason Mount after the midfielder missed the decisive penalty in the shootout. “The penalty will change nothing on my opinion about Mason. He is a key figure in this squad. He is a super nice guy and we don’t start doubting now because he misses a penalty.”

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