Andreas Christensen was nowhere to be seen on Thursday night during Chelsea’s penultimate game of the Premier League season.
After missing the FA Cup final at the last moment and a subsequent barrage of online abuse, Christensen might have opted to disappear into the shadows, leaving a club he’s been at for a decade without much fanfare.
The general tone around Christensen now is not pleasant and has not been for some time. From the moment Thomas Tuchel revealed to the media back in December that the Dane had been left out of the lineup in hopes to encourage him to sign a new contract, the narrative has been set and only got worse.
The defender has been on the back foot in terms of public perception, his late withdrawals from two cup finals against Liverpool only furthered the belief of his distance to the Chelsea cause as rumours of his exit to Barcelona grew stronger.
In what has been a uniquely awkward situation for Chelsea, both Christensen and Antonio Rudiger have almost mirrored each other over the season with their uncertain futures. Both deals ticking down, both were first-team regulars and both were a major part of the Champions League win under Tuchel.
Rudiger, though, will likely leave with much applause on Sunday against Watford. Even if his departure to Real Madrid comes as a blow, his cult hero-like status amongst the Stamford Bridge faithful will triumph over any bitterness.
Christensen, though, would likely not receive the same appreciation, even though he came through the club’s academy. He was situated in that iconic picture with all of the club’s young talent after the Champions League win last May in Porto. Christensen should be viewed as another success story in a blossoming academy under Neil Bath.
Though his on-pitch mistakes and off-field quietness have probably hurt him in comparison to the outspoken Rudiger, who is perceived as one of the club’s vocal leaders. Probably there is no better demonstration of that than his extensive farewell letter.
Rudiger’s character, his fight and his confrontational nature are traits that supporters quickly clung to after his arrival from Roma in 2017. Christensen in comparison has always been more defined by his quietness. Even if his physicality improved after Tuchel’s arrival, he was always going to pale in comparison to Rudiger.
Is that an issue with football fan culture? Can we not handle or appreciate the more introverted, laid-back type? The problem within all of Christensen’s story this season is the lack of noise we have heard from the player himself.
Since interviews surfaced before Christmas that seemed to suggest he was committed to signing an extension at Chelsea, the change in agent, the re-negotiations and the reported option to join Barcelona have easily painted the 26-year-old as a villain, rather than a player making a decision over his career.
I still think the way Tuchel and the club handled the situation before Christmas was misjudged, it allowed for a social media barrage of the club vs. player which in the febrile atmosphere of online chatter nowadays was always going to lead to toxicity. How did this impact Christensen being publicly outed? Did it change his mood and feeling towards Chelsea?
We are only speculating and it would be foolish to presume one press conference altered the whole trajectory of a major career choice. Though in future situations like this you do wonder how players will feel knowing if they don’t sign a contract instantly will they be outed in a similar way?
Christensen’s brilliant run under Tuchel should never be forgotten. Given where both he and Rudiger were at the end of Frank Lampard’s time, neither had ever shown enough consistency to convince, but that all changed with Tuchel.
Coming off the bench in the Champions League final was big pressure, replacing a presence like Thiago Silva and still managing to provide the defensive assurance needed against growing Manchester City pressure. It is sad to think some now scoff at Christensen and are happy to see the back of him, he will always be a part of that special night and people should remember that.
Christensen will be replaced, just as Rudiger will. Reports of Jules Kounde’s willingness to join Chelsea once the sanctions are lifted provide the beginning of a new chapter, as others hopefully will in a busy summer. Christensen’s own performances have tailed off and his lack of involvement has only soured the mood around a generally downbeat end to the season.
This has been a sorry end to what could have been a much happier tale. But as with Chelsea, things will move on and new characters for supporters to connect with will emerge.
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