Progress and potential return for Real Madrid defender


Carlo Ancelotti often falls back upon the same description of Antonio Rudiger, invariably hailing the centre-back as “a warrior”.

Schooled on the concrete pitches of south Berlin, Rudiger was likened to one of the most famous warriors with his childhood nickname ‘Rambo’. Yet, Ancelotti’s trusted soldier has been sidelined in the sick bay over recent weeks.

Real Madrid are already without the two centre-backs that started the 2022 Champions League final. Eder Militao tore his ACL in the first game of the season and has been joined by David Alaba in the treatment room since the Austria international suffered the same season-ending injury in December.

Ancelotti insisted Madrid didn’t need to recruit another central defender during the January transfer window only to watch Rudiger pull up with a rare fitness complaint on Deadline Day.

Here’s the latest updates on Ancelotti’s wounded warrior.

Antonio Rudiger

Antonio Rudiger was forced off at half-time against Getafe in February / Mateo Villalba/GettyImages

After a typically combative first half against Jose Bordalas’ Getafe at the start of February, Rudiger did not reemerge for the second half of a 2-0 win.

Ancelotti was initially optimistic, predicting: “I think Rudiger can recover, he has a strong blow and we will see how he is in the next few days.” Real were preparing for the fourth Madrid derby of the season and Ancelotti was confident his strapping centre-back would be available. “We have a few days to recover it,” the Italian noted. “Rudiger is a warrior and it is difficult for him to miss the derby due to a small annoyance.”

Yet, Rudiger was nowhere to be seen for the 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu. Defensive midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni replaced Rudiger in the second half against Getafe but was suspended for the derby, forcing right-back Dani Carvajal into a particularly diminutive defence. Atletico Madrid’s stoppage-time equaliser was the result of two headers, prompting Ancelotti to concede: “We lacked a bit of height, they took advantage of a lot of crosses.”

As Madrid would later reveal, Rudiger had suffered “a muscle injury in the vastus lateralis of his left thigh”.

The faith Ancelotti had in Rudiger’s powers of recovery were not solely based upon his imposing reputation in Berlin’s caged pitches.

Carlo Ancelotti, Antonio Ruediger

Antonio Rudiger (left) has an excellent relationship with Carlo Ancelotti / Florencia Tan Jun/GettyImages

Shakhtar Donetsk’s Champions League group-stage ‘home’ game against Real Madrid in October 2022 was held in Poland during the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Most of the 29,000 neutrals in attendance began cheering for Madrid but had been converted to Shakhtar supporters just in time for Rudiger to break their hearts. Piling into a packed penalty area, Rudiger nodded a stoppage-time equaliser past Anatoliy Trubin. The ball evaded Shakhtar’s goalkeeper but Rudiger’s face did not. The collision left Rudiger with 20 stitches.

Yet, just five days later, Rudiger was back in Madrid’s squad. Equipped with a protective mask, the burly centre-back came on for the closing stages of Barcelona’s visit to the Bernabeu, sparking the move which led to the game-sealing third goal with his very first touch of the ball.

Madrid have not divulged an official timeline for Rudiger’s recovery but initial reports suggest the centre-back will miss between two to three weeks.

Rudiger sat out the final training session before Madrid’s trip to Rayo Vallecano on Sunday but is expected to be available once again for the visit of Sevilla on 25 February.

When Madrid travelled to Sevilla in October, Rudiger was at the epicentre of an enthralling feud with Sergio Ramos. The former Madrid skipper gripped both of Rudiger’s cheeks at one point in a running battle which one Spanish report likened to “two cocks in the town square”. How could Ancelotti’s warrior miss that rematch?

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