Andreas Christensen was nowhere to be seen during Chelsea’s penultimate game of the Premier League season on Thursday night.
After missing the FA Cup final at the last moment and being followed by a spate of online abuse, Christensen might have opted to fade into the shadows and a club he’s been at for a decade without much fanfare to leave.
The general tone around Christensen is not pleasant now and has not been for some time. From the moment Thomas Tuchel revealed to the media in December that the Dane had been left out of the line-up in hopes of encouraging him to sign a new contract, the narrative was set and only getting worse.
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The defender has been on the back foot in terms of public perception, his late exit from two cup finals against Liverpool only reinforcing belief in his distance from the Chelsea cause as rumors of his Barcelona departure mounted.
In a uniquely awkward situation for Chelsea, both Christensen and Antonio Rudiger have almost mirrored each other over the course of the season with their uncertain futures. Both deals are ongoing, both were first-team regulars and both played a big part in the Champions League win under Tuchel.
However, Rudiger is likely to leave to much applause against Watford on Sunday. While his departure to Real Madrid is a blow, his status as a cult hero among Stamford Bridge supporters will triumph over bitterness.
However, Christensen probably wouldn’t receive the same recognition despite having progressed through the club’s academy. He was featured in this iconic image with all the young talents at the club following last May’s Champions League win in Porto. Christensen should be viewed as yet another success story in a thriving academy under Neil Bath.
Although his mistakes on the pitch and calmness off the field likely hurt him compared to the outspoken Rudiger, who is perceived as one of the club’s vocal leaders. There is probably no better proof of this than his detailed suicide note.
Rudiger’s character, struggle and confrontational nature are traits that supporters quickly latched on to after his arrival from Roma in 2017. In comparison, Christensen was characterized more and more by his calmness. Even if his physicality improved after Tuchel’s arrival, he paled in comparison to Rüdiger.
Is this a football fan culture problem? Can’t we handle or appreciate the more introverted, laid-back type? The problem in Christensen’s whole story this season is the lack of noise, which we heard from the player himself.
With interviews surfacing ahead of Christmas that seemed to suggest he had committed to signing an extension at Chelsea, the agent move, renegotiations and reported option to join Barcelona have cast the 26-year-old as a slight villain , rather than a player making a decision about his career.
I still think how Tuchel and the club handled the situation before Christmas was misjudged, it enabled a club social media barrage against players that would always result in toxicity in the feverish atmosphere of online chatter today . How did this affect Christensen’s public outing? Has it changed his mood and feeling towards Chelsea?
We’re only speculating, and it would be foolish to assume that one press conference changed the entire course of an important career choice. Although in future situations like this you wonder how will players feel knowing that if they don’t sign a contract right away they will be outed in a similar way?
Christensen’s brilliant run under Tuchel should never be forgotten. Given where he and Rudiger were at the end of Frank Lampard’s time, neither had ever shown enough consistency to impress, but with Tuchel everything changed.
Coming off the bench in the Champions League final was a lot of pressure, replacing a presence like Thiago Silva and still managing to provide the necessary defensive security against the growing pressure from Manchester City. It’s sad to think some are mocking Christensen now and happy to see him from behind, he will always be a part of this special night and people should remember that.
Christensen is replaced, as is Rüdiger. Reports of Jules Kounde’s willingness to join Chelsea once sanctions are lifted is the start of a new chapter, as hopefully others will in a busy summer. Christensen’s own performances have flagged and his lack of commitment has only dampened sentiment around a generally dismal end of the season.
This was a sad ending to a much happier story. But like Chelsea, things will evolve and new characters will emerge for fans to connect with.