Chelsea must be wary of allowing the delicate situation around their defenders’ contracts to escalate in the New Year, according to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
The Blues have slipped off the pace in the Premier League title race in recent weeks and now sit third, six points adrift of leaders Manchester City, ahead of tonight’s game against Aston Villa.
Their defence, which has normally been solid under Thomas Tuchel, has creaked, with the 0-0 draw against Wolves last weekend their first clean sheet in six league matches.
Like all clubs, Chelsea have been forced to deal with the difficulties associated with the Omicron wave of coronavirus, but there is also another factor to contend with.
As things stand, Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva and Cesar Azpilicueta are all set to be out of contract with Chelsea on July 1.
Although the quartet’s contractual situations are all different, the fact that they are all first-team defenders could be viewed as an issue for Tuchel.
Former Chelsea striker Hasselbaink believes that the ages of Azpilicueta (32) and Silva (37) make them different cases, but the situation around Rudiger and Christensen needs addressing as soon as possible.
Although he does not see a direct link between their contracts and recent shaky performances, Hasselbaink thinks trouble could be brewing, with the duo able to open negotiations with other clubs in the New Year.
“The problem is going to come for Rudiger and Christensen, if they haven’t signed yet, in March, April, May,” he told Mirror Sport at a Signathon Live event.
“Because if they have got another club how will they be? How will they perform? That’s going to be a problem.
“Can they keep Rudiger? What’s the balance of that? Because if you have to replace him like-for-like it’s going to cost you a lot of money.
HAVE YOUR SAY! What should Chelsea do with their soon-to-be out of contract players? Comment below.
“But on the other hand you also don’t want him to earn a crazy amount of money, so much more than others as that takes the balance away from the team.
“You have to think about a lot of things. Can you get a replacement? Have you got one? Is it someone who can come through the youth set-up? Is it someone you’re going to buy and develop? If that’s the case you’re definitely going to lose another two years to get another Rudiger.
“Chelsea are not in an easy position. It’s very difficult. And Rudiger is in a better position because he just plays his football to the best of his ability and he’s going to end up choosing the best thing for him – and that might end up being Real Madrid.”
Rudiger has remained tight-lipped about his future, but he has been linked with Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain over the past few months.
According to The Guardian , Rudiger currently earns around £90,000 per week and has already rejected an offer of £140,000, because he wants closer to £200,000 to sign a new contract.
Hasselbaink says Rudiger has been in the form of his life under Tuchel and, although they should try to keep him, Chelsea have to tread carefully.
“I think they want to keep him and they have tried to keep him,” he said.
“Obviously he knows what a player of his stature is worth in this market. And also he’s free, that’s the problem.
“If he has two more years and you want to open his contract then it’s a different ball game. But because he’s got seven more months it’s hard, he can ask whatever he wants and then it’s up to Chelsea if they’re going to pay him or not.
“But they have to think about the squad because if you give somebody something then the others will know. And they also know their values. It’s not easy.”
Signathon hosted a live virtual event for fans with former Chelsea, Leeds and Middlesbrough FC player, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. He also signed limited edition merchandise, which is available to buy now online at www.signathon.live