Thomas Tuchel has reinforced the message that striker Romelu Lukaku has a “big part” to play in Chelsea’s future plans, but accepts that Antonio Rudiger may wish to explore alternative options this summer.
Barcelona representatives have met with Rudiger’s agents this week, despite Chelsea boss Tuchel refusing to give up hope of convincing the Germany international to remain at Stamford Bridge.
The west London club cannot sign or sell any players under the terms of their current UK Government licence, in light of sanctions on Russian owner Roman Abramovich.
The Blues cannot pursue new contracts for existing players either, though Cesar Azpilicueta’s extension was triggered via a pre-existing clause.
Tuchel still believes Chelsea have a hope of keeping hold of prized defender Rudiger, once the ongoing takeover battle is complete, but says that he would not blame the defender for talking to other clubs.
“I would try to meet him if I were any other club,” said Tuchel.
“Still, he’s our player and I still think we have a good chance he stays our player once things are solved for us. Our hands are tied, we cannot offer him or negotiate or renegotiate with his agents. But I’m still confident. “
Tuchel: Lukaku plays a big part in our plans
Commenting on the future of Lukaku, following the striker’s unsettled return to Stamford Bridge, Tuchel reiterated the club-record signing remains an integral part of their plans.
The 28-year-old has played second fiddle to Kai Havertz recently, but was on target during Chelsea’s FA Cup triumph over Middlesbrough in March, taking his seasonal tally to 10 goals.
“We don’t reflect on it,” Tuchel asserted. “The situation is at the moment, we cannot talk to players, we cannot sell and we cannot buy. Romelu still plays a big part in our plans.
“I feel him very motivated, very strong in training. Very much involved when we do the games. He is a winner, and he will stay a winner. He had a good match in Middlesbrough.
“In the moment there is no space for bad mood, for disappointment. There are a lot of matches coming in the decisive weeks of the season. There is no space for second thoughts. We have to focus. And we need every single player and of course Romelu.”
Captain Azpilicueta stays
Meanwhile, Tuchel believes Chelsea have thwarted Barcelona’s attempts to sign Azpilicueta, after the Blues skipper triggered a one-year extension to his contract.
Asked about the Spaniard’s situation, he said: “Yes, I knew it was going to happen because I knew the number of games when it was going to happen. It’s a good thing; it’s good news for us.”
Then asked if he expects Azpilicueta to be at Chelsea next season, Tuchel continued: “Yes, absolutely. We have a contract, he’s our captain, so there’s a very high probability that he will stay. I knew it all the time that this is very likely to happen.
“He’s a regular starter for us. You know how much I rely on him and how much impact he has on this club and this group. So, it’s very good for us.”