Antonio Rudiger claims leaving Chelsea has never been on the agenda, with the Blues defender saying: “Frank Lampard in or out, I would have stayed anyway”.
Transfer talk raged around the Germany international early in the 2020-21 campaign as he struggled for game time and saw just two Premier League appearances before the January window opened.
Various clubs were mooted for the 27-year-old, but his patience was rewarded with a return to favour before another change in the dugout at Stamford Bridge saw fellow countryman Thomas Tuchel appointed as successor to Chelsea legend Lampard.
What has been said?
Rudiger told Sky Sports: “I'm a competitor, I want to play. Obviously it is frustrating and it was the first time in my career that I had this type of situation. I just said to myself 'work, try hard to get back into the first team'. Now I can say I'm receiving the good from the hard work that I did before.
“You just have to get ready. You have to always make yourself available and always be ready in your mindset. Maybe in the future - I hope not, but this is football - someone gets injured and maybe they are going to say your name and you have to be up there and ready.
“This is how I prepare for every game. Although maybe you know you're not playing because you can see it through the training, but in my head, I always prepared like I was going to play so that I'm always ready in my mind.
“Inside myself, I was always calm and relaxed, I'll be very honest. I was not going crazy because I was not playing at the beginning and when you're not in the squad, you think 'oh wow, what's happening?'
“Then suddenly I was back in the team and got some games. From that moment on, my head was 'I'm staying here at Chelsea and trying to fight for my spot'. In the last games of Frank Lampard, I was featuring even more. Lampard in or out, I would have stayed anyway.”
Will Rudiger be staying at Chelsea long-term?
While a return to form and favour has been taken in, Rudiger is only tied to a contract in west London through to the summer of 2022.
Quizzed on whether he could commit to an extension, the centre-half said: “The thing is I cannot give myself a new contract. The talks have to come from the board, from Marina [Granovskaia], I'm very calm when it comes to that.”
The bigger picture
Rudiger, who was snapped up by Chelsea from Roma in 2017, is now up to 14 appearances this season and has played a prominent role under Tuchel with four clean sheets secured.
In total, he has figured in 129 games while at Stamford Bridge and will be hoping to retain his starting berth for the Premier League clash with Newcastle on Monday.