ANTONIO RUDIGER looks and plays like a man simmering permanently on the cusp of boiling point.
But his channelled ferocity helped the Chelsea defender pull back from the brink of quitting the club in despair to become indispensable.
There is also a side to ‘Rudi’ that few outside Stamford Bridge know.
An outgoing personality that reveals itself at unexpected moments.
On a 5½-hour flight through the night back from Baku to London after a Champions League group game in 2017, insomniac Rudiger ignored dimmed cabin lights — and the club’s VIP sponsors snoozing rows ahead — to stage an impromptu one-man dance act in the aisle of Chelsea’s posh chartered plane.
With his personal speakers booming, Rudiger could not hold back on his joy from the earlier victory over Qarabag, so performed Man’s Not Hot with full lyrics and moves.
The song is a satirical poke at the gangsta world of grime — telling the story of a young man who never overheats. Whatever happens, he keeps his coat on.
JOIN SUN VEGAS: GET A FREE £10 BONUS WITH 100s OF GAMES TO PLAY AND NO DEPOSIT REQUIRED (Ts&Cs apply)
And Rudiger, 28, stayed cool throughout the most turbulent period of his career and is now on a high.
He addressed media in Germany last week as a man riding a wave of confidence.
He is two away from 50 international caps and has played every minute of every Premier League and Champions League game this season when fit.
His contract expires at the end of the campaign amid strong links to Bayern Munich.
Rudiger is at his peak, in stark contrast to a year ago.
This time last year, the imperious centre-half was still waiting for his chance under Tuchel’s predecessor Frank Lampard.
It did not come until October 28 in a low-grade Champions League away trip to Krasnodar in Russia.
Hardly the glamorous life of top- level football.
His first Premier League game was in December.
He was still being picked by Germany, for who he earned a 48th cap against Romania last week.
BIDED HIS TIME
Through it all, Rudiger bided his time, waiting until January this year when Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain made advances towards signing him on loan.
The deals never came off and Chelsea fans are now thanking their lucky stars that Spurs could not offer the money needed to get him out of the doldrums.
A change of manager triggered a change of fortune for one of the quickest, most aggressive defenders Chelsea have ever employed — and that includes legendary ex-captain John Terry.
When he was pinched on the thigh by notoriously underhand Luis Suarez last season, Rudiger did not flinch.
Many players would yelp and call for action from the referee. Ice-man Rudiger just shrugged it off.
Injury has not helped in recent seasons.
In September 2019, he slipped on a metal grill placed by the touchline at Wolves, as he retrieved the ball for a throw-in. It seemed innocuous but would play havoc with his groin.
It took two months to sort the nagging muscle strains. But maybe it is that ability to stay calm and in control on the pitch that has so enchanted Tuchel.
⚽ Read our Football news live blog for the very latest rumours, gossip and done deals
Rudiger was on the way back when Tuchel replaced Lampard in January and it is an upward curve that shows no sign of levelling out.
The exquisitely-timed tackles, combined with a character that holds it together under pressure, make Rudi a key part of the bid to win a first Premier League title since 2017 — the year Man’s Not Hot came out.
CHELSEA (likely): Mendy, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger, James, Kovacic, Jorginho, Alonso, Mount, Havertz, Hudson-Odoi.
FREE BETS: GET OVER £2,000 IN NEW CUSTOMER DEALS