MADRID (AP) – While at Chelsea, Antonio Rudiger experienced first hand what it means to be a Real Madrid player.
He was on the verge of losing when Real Madrid pulled off one of their stunning Champions League comebacks, culminating in a record 14th European title this season.
Ruediger said his experience at the Santiago Bernabéu in that quarter-final defeat made it easier for him to join the Spanish powerhouse.
“The match I played against Chelsea at the Bernabéu was special, very intense,” the centre-back said during his official presentation in Madrid on Monday.
“I played for the first time at the Santiago Bernabeu,” he said. “It was an incredible feeling for me. After the third goal (for Chelsea) there was still a very positive atmosphere. I have taken an amazing feeling with me and the opportunity to play for such a club is incredible.”
In the second leg of the quarter-finals against Chelsea, Madrid lost 3-0, and Rudiger scored one of the goals, but the hosts rallied and still went ahead.
“I just don’t know how to describe Real Madrid’s achievements in the Champions League this year,” Ruediger said. “That was incredible. Obviously, by the time of the final, I knew that I would play for Real Madrid. I was right behind them and I was excited when they won it. I want to keep fighting for more titles next year.”
Ruediger, 29, said Real Madrid archrivals Barcelona showed interest in signing him, but it was “Madrid or nothing”.
“The first contact between Real Madrid and my agent was last September,” he said. – The second time I spoke with (coach Carlo) Ancelotti himself was in April. My contact with him was the most important moment, and that’s when I decided to join this club. He told me that he wanted me to be here, that he trusted me and that I could really help the team.”
Madrid signed the German international to a four-year deal who helped Chelsea win Champions League, Europa League, Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FA Cup titles. He scored five goals in 54 appearances for Chelsea last season, a record for him at the club.
Ruediger made his Bundesliga debut with Stuttgart at the age of 18 before moving to Roma in 2015 and then to Chelsea in 2017.
Ruediger said his idols at Madrid include the former Brazilian great Ronaldo and fellow centre-back Pepe.
“(Pepe) has qualities that I like. And off the pitch, from what I’ve seen, he’s a good guy, but on the pitch he’s a monster,” Ruediger said.
Real Madrid signed defender David Alaba last year to make up for the absence of veteran Sergio Ramos, who joined Paris Saint-Germain. Alaba started in the Champions League final against Liverpool alongside Eder Militao. Nacho Fernandez also played in central defense when needed.
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