We’re delighted to announce that Antonio Rudiger is still very, very strange
The competition for football’s most peculiar character is hotly contested but, in reality, Antonio Rudiger has rendered everybody else mere pretenders to his throne.
“I’m just the opposite of what you see on the pitch. I don’t see myself as a superstar, I’m a normal guy,” Rudiger said when he swapped Chelsea for Real Madrid last summer.
Which is just as well really. The thought of Rudiger sticking his head under the armpit of a stranger at the pedestrian crossing, stealing a plate of pan con tomate from an innocent bystander or following his wife like she was an opposition forward are arresting ones, but peculiar in the extreme.
But the Germany international has made weirdness his calling card when dealing with strikers and was at it again during Madrid’s 3-0 win over Girona on Saturday night.
As Savio carried the threat to Madrid, the 30-year-old slapped his hands down the forward’s back like a pensioner trying and failing to get rid of a persistent fly.
Rudiger has form in such exaggerated strangeness; few will forget his Monty Python tribute during an actual World Cup game last year and the schadenfreude when Germany went on to lose that match against Japan.
This may have been a few rungs down from that bizarre incident, but only in the same way that all siblings don’t necessarily look alike. It was still unquestionably Rudiger.
After leaving the Premier League in the summer of 2022, Rudiger is thriving under Carlo Ancelotti in the Spanish capital.
“I could not imagine anything because if I’m being honest the biggest dream for my career was to play in the Premier League, I just thought that Real Madrid wouldn’t happen for me, it wasn’t in my plans,” he said shortly after joining Madrid.
“I was very happy in Chelsea and then you realize Real Madrid want to sign you and you just think “wow!”. Then, you come here and everything is big and spectacular.
“In Madrid you have pressure even when you take the car to go to Valdebebas. But I say that as a positive, because I like to have that kind of pressure in my life, I wouldn’t want to live without it.
“Madrid is not for any player and I try to be there. I want to spend a great time here.”
The centre-back also revealed that he embraces the expectations that come with being a Madrid regular.
“You have to be clear about your role in the team. And I know my role. And I have nothing to complain about in that regard. How am I going to complain if the club has been successful like this year after year! I go out to the field and do my job,” Rudiger said.
Rudiger has been played in different positions by Ancelotti, but he knows that he’s still a pure centre-back.
“Yes, it’s my best position, no question,” he said last season.
“I will never say ‘no’ to a coach who wants me to play right-back or left-back because my main goal is to help the team. I a team player, but everyone knows I’m at my best when I play centre-back.”
He’s also at his very best when he fully embraces his weirdness, just as he did against Girona on Saturday evening. Nobody can realistically aspire to emulate his level of peculiarness.
By Michael Lee