It was beautiful, a work of art, a piece of defending so perfect in its timing, anticipation and execution that it made you want to rise up and applaud its magnificence like a shot flying into the top corner.
If the script had been written beforehand, Phil Foden, the wonderkid of English football, who has come of age this season, would have scored. The headlines would be his, the glory too.
But like all the most memorable moments of superlative defending, this was the sight of a script being ruined. Not just rewritten but torn up, shredded and tossed in the dustbin of what might have been.
Dancing into the Chelsea area with his ballatic, perfectly balanced feet. Foden swayed, his weight shifting on to his left so he could guide a shot past the goalkeeper with his right. The young England international would have looked up and would have only seen Edouard Mendy standing in front of him.
The angle favoured the City forward, the corner of the goal, to the goalkeeper’s left was open. The net would have looked like a buffet; a help yourself target. Foden’s eyes bulged. This was it, the opening goal in a Champions League final for the club you grew up supporting; the club you have played for since you were a kid; the club you love.
But then, out of the corner of his eye, there would have been a blur; a presence; a flash of blue. Foden will possibly have felt the air being disturbed, of something approaching at speed. It was all in a split second, but players like Foden play with instinct. They sense things are going to happen before they do.
With his masked face, Rudiger was dressed like a superhero. Or a villain, depending on whether it was dark blue or sky blue you were supporting in Porto.
It was a Zorro mask and like the old swashbuckling hero of the western movies, Rudiger had spotted the danger and was coming to the rescue for Chelsea.
Not on a horse, but he leapt into the air without one, taking off, leg outstretched. The risks were high, but so was the threat.
If he made contact with Foden before he shot, he would be sent off and City would have a penalty and 10 men to play against.
Rudiger, though, had to do something, he had to take the risk.
Foden’s shot left the outside of his right boot at precisely the same moment Rudiger took off. It was going in, he had got the ball away before he could be stopped… but the German had got everything right. It was perfection in motion, the ball hitting his leg and bouncing clear as everyone, on the pitch and in the stands, stood with mouths open and eyes wide.
City had thought they were going to take the lead. Chelsea thought they were going to go behind.
Rudiger changed everything and with it quite possibly the outcome of this Champions League final. It would not be his only major impact – Kevin De Bruyne left the pitch in tears on the hour mark after a heavy collision with the Chelsea defender. Concussed and disconsolate, the Belgian was forced off with a nasty black eye already developing on his left cheek. Rudiger, now in City’s eyes very much the villain, was booked for the cynical body check, but his work was done.
Whatever had happened before in his Chelsea story, it no longer mattered. The fall outs, the isolation, the regrets and the bitterness. Before Thomas Tuchel took over, Rudiger appeared to be on borrowed time at Stamford Bridge. A player his former manager Frank Lampard either did not rate or could not relate to.
Tuchel did as soon as he took over. Rudiger had not given up on Chelsea and he did not give up when Foden looked certain to score. Never give up, never believe a cause is lost – this is what defending is.
Like all the best players in his position, Rudiger is not always easy to get on with. He is, according to his own teammates, the alpha male of the Chelsea dressing room and causes friction within it.
Abrasive, aggressive and antagonistic, but that is the fire within, the fuel that flows through him. And you do not have to like him, you just need to be able to rely on him to defend his goal as though he was protecting the most perish thing in his world.
And when it mattered, he delivered. He saved Chelsea. Not all heroes wear masks, but this one did.