Chelsea should not give up on Ruben Loftus-Cheek yet

Tom Gott
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is at a crossroads
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is at a crossroads / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Of the 14 Chelsea players who appeared in the Champions League final, five of them were younger than Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

The 25-year-old can no longer be seen as part of the 'Chelsea youngsters' crop, but if recent reports are to be believed, he might not even be part of any Chelsea crop at all as the club have been tipped to give up on Loftus-Cheek once and for all this summer.

La Gazzetta dello Sport recently claimed that Loftus-Cheek could be used as a makeweight as part of the deal to sign Achraf Hakimi to Inter, who are understandably looking for new attacking midfielders amid fears Christian Eriksen may never play football again.

For any Chelsea fan, it's news which hurts to hear. After all, there were justifiable hopes that Loftus-Cheek was going to be the star of the future just a few years ago, only for that devastating Achilles injury to bring his already-delayed career to a complete stand-still.

There's a long road back for Loftus-Cheek, but Chelsea shouldn't give up on the academy graduate just yet.

Now, let's not ignore the obvious here. Chelsea are the champions of Europe and Loftus-Cheek is returning after a season in which he wasn't always a regular starter for a Fulham side who ended up getting relegated. There's an enormous jump in quality there.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Loftus-Cheek faces a long road back / James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

It's going to be incredibly tough for Loftus-Cheek to force his way into this Chelsea team, but if there's any manager around right now who can help make it a reality, it's Thomas Tuchel, who has never hidden his admiration for the midfielder in the past.

 "I was quite a fan of him when he was even younger when he came up from the academy," the boss said recently. "With his style of play and his movements, he reminded me a bit of Michael Ballack."

Tuchel's 3-4-2-1 system may well end up being perfect for Loftus-Cheek. He obviously doesn't have the positional discipline needed to work in that deeper pairing, but as one of the two 10s, Loftus-Cheek could thrive.

He's at his best when picking the ball up from deep and running at defenders, in a similar attacking style to Mason Mount, who blossomed into one of the best players in England under Tuchel. Capable of finding pockets of space, Loftus-Cheek loves using his agility and physicality to overwhelm his opponents - or, at least he did before his injury.

We haven't really seen that explosive version of Loftus-Cheek on a consistent basis since he went down in that unnecessary mid-season friendly against New England Revolution in May 2019. There were exciting glimpses during his loan with Fulham, but not enough to command a spot in the squad back with his parent side.

He was loaned to Fulham to build up his match fitness, and he did that. The next step is for Loftus-Cheek to prove his quality is still there, and he should get the chance to show that at Stamford Bridge next year.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek
We saw glimpses of his quality at Fulham / Pool/Getty Images

The question Tuchel must answer is whether he can help Loftus-Cheek get back to where he was before that injury. Did he genuinely struggle at Fulham or was he hampered by playing in a bad team?

For now, with three years remaining on his contract, Loftus-Cheek feels like a player worth taking a gamble on. If he reaches his best, he can provide some much-needed enthusiasm into a Chelsea forward line which wasn't always easy to watch last year. Peak Loftus-Cheek is the kind of player who can make things happen out of nowhere, and Chelsea need that big time.

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