Speaking in a special interview on The 5th Stand app, alongside Kai Havertz, Antonio Rudiger says last season’s Champions League triumph has brought the Chelsea squad even closer together as they prepare to start the new season the way they finished the last.
The 2020/21 campaign will go down in club history after we lifted Europe’s most prestigious club trophy for only the second time, thanks to a 1-0 victory over Manchester City in the final in Porto.
The German played a key role in that triumph, playing every minute of the competition’s knockout stages and setting up Christian Pulisic’s important away goal in the first leg of our semi-final against Real Madrid.
He also made a vital challenge to deny Man City’s Phil Foden what looked like a certain goal in the final itself, but dismissed suggestions he had now secured legendary status with the Blues, insisting last season’s victory was all about the group and pointing out there were plenty of other crucial contributions from his team-mates.
‘It was good, but “legend”, I wouldn’t say that,’ Rudiger explained to The 5th Stand. ‘We did it as a team, as a group, and a “legend” is for other people to decide. But for me it is just that we won the Champions League together as a group and it was good.
‘It was not only that challenge by me, it was Azpi’s challenge, it was also Reece’s challenge, Christensen’s challenge and Kai’s goal, Mason’s assist. It was a good team effort.’
The defender also feels that glorious night in Porto has strengthened the already strong bond between the players at Chelsea, with the good mix of youth and experience at the Blues creating a good balance in the squad.
‘Obviously, with success, everything is good, but here there was a good bond already. There’s a lot of young players and we have Thiago Silva who is the grandpa and the youngest I think is Tino Anjorin, who is the child. It’s a good mix.’
The other bond which has no doubt been strengthened by that Champions League success is that between the players and the fans. Having been given a taste of the supporters’ return to stadiums after the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, with around 10,000 present at Stamford Bridge for the important 2-1 win over Leicester City at the end of last season and over 20,000 at the pre-season draw with Tottenham, Rudiger can’t wait to play in front of a full crowd.
‘Leicester at home, it was nice. There was a good atmosphere and the fans were up for it, we were up for it, so we cannot wait to have all of them back.’