Thomas Tuchel has opened up on Andreas Christensen withdrawing from Chelsea's FA Cup final defeat by Liverpool on the morning of the game, claiming it was not the first time the defender had pulled out of a match at short notice.
Christensen, who is set to join Barcelona this summer, forced Tuchel into a late rethink for the final when he made himself unavailable despite not being injured. The Denmark centre-back was in line to start but he has complained of stomach issues before games in the past and it is unclear whether he will be involved when Chelsea host Leicester on Thursday and Watford on Sunday.
“Andreas came in the morning of the match to inform me, speak to me,” Tuchel said. “He told me he was not ready to play the match, to start the match and be on the bench. He had his reasons. They stay private and confidential. It was not the first time as you can see over the last weeks that we had some of the same situations.
“That’s why he did not play regularly over the last weeks. We thought we are in a good progression, development because he played a strong match before the final against Leeds. The conversation took place. We had to respect it. Of course. He has our support still but for tomorrow I am unsure. It was very short notice before the Cup final, not only before this match. Other matches the weeks before. No chance I have a prediction before tomorrow or the weekend.”
It remains to be seen whether Christensen is given a send-off at Stamford Bridge. The 26-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season and agreed to join Barcelona after negotiations with Chelsea over a new deal broke down.
Tuchel believes Chelsea face a summer of “rebuilding” amid the impact of the Stamford Bridge club’s sale.
Chelsea will lose Antonio Rüdiger to Real Madrid and Christensen to Barcelona on free transfers this summer. The Blues are blocked from making new signings or securing existing players to new deals under the strict terms of the temporary British government licence. Owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the government on March 10th, with Downing Street claiming to have proven his links to Russian president Vladimir Putin following the invasion of Ukraine. Abramovich's lawyers are understood to be hopeful of striking a legal resolution with the British government that could now usher through Chelsea's £4.25 billion sale to Todd Boehly. The government is yet to agree to any terms, it is understood, with the granting of a licence to complete the sale the final step of Boehly's purchase process.
Chelsea’s hiatus in the transfer market has allowed rivals, both domestic and European, to steal a march on summer window targets. “You ask many times if we have a delay in approaching players and making plans; of course, a huge delay,” said Tuchel. “We are affected by it, players are going out. We are rebuilding, not improving the squad. This is always challenging but we are up for the challenge.
“I don’t know where we are from day one. What I can promise is that I will be here – if I can promise that. I will be here with full energy and positive energy no matter what. We will still work for Chelsea and I refuse to think of negative scenarios. We will be competitive, on which level we will see.
“On how the delay and sanctions will affect us, there is a risk. It will be very challenging to make up for the disadvantage, given the situation of the other two teams, City and Liverpool, who are already improving the squad and set one benchmark after the other in all aspects of the game.”
Lawyers for Abramovich and the British government are understood to remain in talks on how to handle the Stamford Bridge club’s £1.5 billion debt to the Chelsea owner. Abramovich has wanted to write off that debt, but the government sanctions blocked that process amid frozen accounts. The government is understood to have raised repeated concerns that Abramovich would renege on his pledge to waive those loans and seeks legally binding assurances that he will in no way benefit from the sale. Abramovich’s lawyers are understood to be confident that their latest proposals will prove acceptable to Downing Street.
Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Boehly struck a purchase agreement to buy Chelsea in the early hours of May 7th, having won the ultra-competitive and uniquely public race. US magnate Boehly met Chelsea managers Tuchel and Emma Hayes last week and will now hope to complete the takeover with little further delay. The Premier League must give the final sign-off on Boehly's consortium through owners' and directors' tests, before the government issues a new licence to allow the sale to complete.
Chelsea’s temporary government licence expires on May 31st, with the date acting as a hard deadline for the sale. The expected resolution between Abramovich and the government should mean that deadline remains on course to be met.
– Guardian, additional reporting by PA