Chelsea have accepted that they will almost certainly lose Antonio Rudiger at the end of the season, according to reports.
The Germany international is one of several Chelsea defenders out of contract in 2022, along with Thiago Silva, Cesar Azpilicueta and Andreas Christensen.
Silva is nearing the end of his career, while the Blues are hopeful that Azpilicueta and Christensen will extend their stays at Stamford Bridge.
But Rudiger, who at 28 is in the peak years of his career, is edging closer to exit door.
Real Madrid are the favourites to sign Rudiger, who will be free to hold direct negotiations with non-English clubs from New Year’s Day onwards.
He could even sign a pre-contract agreement with a side outside the Premier League ahead of a summer switch, although he is unlikely to take up that option.
Rudiger is a regular starter for Thomas Tuchel’s side and the Chelsea boss would no doubt rather keep hold of the centre-back.
But the two parties remain some way apart in negotiations, with the 28-year-old demanding around double the £165,000 per week that Chelsea have offered.
There has been no progress in talks between club and player in recent weeks, and Chelsea are now beginning to plan for life after Rudiger.
They will hope to persuade Azpilicueta and Christensen to stay put, otherwise a defensive overhaul could be required.
The aforementioned report states that several Chelsea players are frustrated that so many key defenders have been allowed to enter the final six months of their deals.
Meanwhile, Tuchel’s side will be looking to make it back-to-back wins over the festive period when they host Brighton on Wednesday.
Two Jorginho penalties and a Romelu Lukaku header gave Chelsea a 3-1 victory over Aston Villa on Boxing Day.
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