During last year’s summer transfer window, Real Madrid managed to rope in a smart free signing in David Alaba who rejected many top clubs to fulfil his dream to wear the illustrious white shirt. The Austrian international proved to be a crucial acquisition for Los Blancos as he played a vital role in both their Champions League and La Liga triumphs.
Fast forward to this summer and Madrid seems to have repeated the trick by signing Antonio Rudiger on a free. The German international quickly established himself as a powerhouse centre-back under Thomas Tuchel and was the linchpin in defence for Chelsea for the past couple of seasons.
After losing imposing defenders such as Ramos and Pepe, it is no surprise that Madrid was quickly interested in securing Rudiger’s services.
When Chelsea played Atletico Madrid in the UCL during the 2020-21 campaign, the centre-back perhaps impressed many Madridistas by squaring up to any Atletico player given the chance to do so.
Fittingly enough, Rudiger’s unofficial debut for Real came on Sunday during a fiery El Clasico against Barcelona played out in Las Vegas.
Given the German’s impressive pace and power, he was expected to adjust quickly and perhaps even dominate most Barca players as the Blaugrana do not currently possess the most physically imposing squads.
However, having been deployed by Carlo Ancelotti at left-back, Rudiger appeared to have met his match as he came up against a like-for-like challenge in Ronald Araujo.
As he has comfortably been Barca’s best defender last season, the Uruguayan international looked determined to continue his form this season and give Rudiger a run for his money while playing at right-back.
When he saw an opportunity to push forward down the flank on Sunday, Araujo did not hesitate and was able to outpace and outmuscle the German international to reach the edge of the Madrid penalty area and deliver a cross into the box.
In his defence, left-back is not his favourite position in a 4-man backline and the 29-year-old looked out of place at times during the game.
But it seems clear that Rudiger perhaps was not expecting that run from Araujo since he is not yet entirely familiar with La Liga player profiles.
Furthermore, the centre-back beat the likes of Mo Salah and Son Heung-Min to claim the title of being the fastest player in the Premier League last season after clocking an astounding 36.7km/h during Chelsea’s game against Brighton in January.
Armed with such accolades the last thing he expected would have been to be outplayed by Barca’s makeshift right-back.
Even after this blistering run from Araujo, the Uruguayan continued to target the debut man throughout the game even when the ball was not in play.
After Sergio Busquets brought Vinicius through a cynical challenge, all hell broke loose between the two sets of players. Being the persona that he is on the pitch, Rudiger was one of the first players to get involved in an ensuing confrontation between the players.
But as he arrived at the scene, Araujo quickly responded by pulling Rudiger away and squaring up to the German, almost acting as his own personal bully.
As a lot of eyes were on Rudiger making his debut, his tough outing against Araujo did not go unnoticed as Spanish outlet Marca focused on this particular tiff for its front cover for Monday’s issue.
Having endured a bittersweet debut on Sunday, Rudiger would be hoping to respond in kind to Araujo when the two Spanish giants clash once again in the league when the stakes would certainly be higher than in Las Vegas.