'It's extremely sad' - Rudiger defends Ozil from constant criticism

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Mesut Ozil Antonio Rudiger Germany
The Chelsea defender backed up the Arsenal star amid the ongoing criticism following his retirement from international football

Antonio Rudiger says the reaction to Mesut Ozil's retirement from Germany is "extremely sad" and pointed out that the midfielder is being criticised for comments he did not make.

After Germany crashed out of the World Cup at the group stage, Ozil was accused of affecting their performances after he and Ilkay Gundogan were pictured posing alongside Turkey's controversial president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The midfielder was urged to explain the image by DFB president Reinhard Grindel among many others and he responded by defending himself and then announcing his retirement from the national team.

Many Germany stars such as Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller have since come forward to suggest Ozil is wrong and that there is no racism in the team, but Rudiger urged those commenting to actually read what the 29-year-old said.

"What I don't understand in this whole discussion is why some people are discussing whether there is racism within the national team," the Chelsea defender told Deutsche Presse Agentur.

"Mesut himself never said that in one sentence! I think it's extremely sad how this has developed. Mesut was always a player in the Germany team that I looked up to. Too bad he will not be there now.

"In any case, we were all responsible for our elimination, it was down to individuals."

Mesut Ozil Arsenal Premier League 2018

Despite the upset, Rudiger believes the team can recover from Ozil's departure.

"We now have to look ahead instead of keeping an eye on this extremely disappointing World Cup again and again" he added. "Of course, we can't wipe that experience away, but that must not be blocking us in the next games. Motivation should now be enough for every player to prove that in Russia it was anything but our normal form."

Rudiger has had to deal with big change at club level, too, as Maurizio Sarri was hired to replace Antonio Conte as coach, and the 25-year-old is enjoying it so far.

"He has a very concrete idea of ​​how to play football," the former Roma star said of Sarri. "As he always points out, this will not work to perfection within weeks. That needs some time! 

"Personally, I felt his trust from day one. I can also talk to him in Italian!"

After starting his professional career with Stuttgart before moving to Italy and England, Rudiger opened up about the big differences between the top leagues.

"The games [in England] are faster, more intense [than in Germany] and the calendar is extremely challenging, especially if you still play internationally," he said.

"For this you have to be physically as well as mentally prepared. I'm very satisfied with my development in England, but I have to admit that if I had gone directly from the Bundesliga to such a big English club as Chelsea, the move might have been too early. The intermediate step to Italy was absolutely perfect for me.

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"From a player's point of view, you can learn a lot in Italy tactically. For example, my former coach Luciano Spalletti had asked me after one of my first training sessions under him what I had actually been training in Germany for years," he added. 

"In England, it's a physical thing, the pace is the highest and the teams have a very high individual class, so you can not rest for a second, something can always happen. 

"At the moment, I don't see the Bundesliga at the top in areas like tactics, pace or physique."