Ruben Loftus-Cheek Is Heading Into Make-or-Break Period at Chelsea

Jul 19, 2020, 12:00 PM GMT+1
Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Ruben Loftus-Cheek recently returned from an Achilles injury | Marc Atkins/Getty Images
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There are plenty of reasons for Chelsea fans to be excited right now. The signings of Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner are great, the kind of names linked with future moves to Stamford Bridge are seriously exciting, but one of the best reasons to be positive about the Blues is the young talent coming through.

The list of young and homegrown stars is huge: Mason Mount, Reece James, Fikayo Tomori, Billy Gilmour, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Tammy Abraham and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

There's just one problem - Loftus-Cheek is 24 and no longer really a youngster.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Abdoulaye Doucoure
Loftus-Cheek will turn 25 in January 2021 | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

He gets thrown into that 'youth' bracket because of the sheer lack of senior involvement in his Chelsea career. For someone who has been tipped for stardom since he was 16, Loftus-Cheek's total of 79 appearances and 3,373 minutes for the Blues is pretty atrocious.

Let's put that into perspective. In his five years at Tottenham Hotspur, Dele Alli has made 221 senior appearances and seen 16,753 minutes. In that same time, Anthony Martial has managed 216 games and 14,434 minutes for Manchester United.

Even the infamously underused 20-year-old Phil Foden has already racked up 71 appearances with Manchester City, and he's only started three games fewer than Loftus-Cheek.

“I don’t see myself as a young player any more,” Loftus-Cheek told The Independent. “Frank came in [last July], but I was always thinking of signing for Chelsea before he came in."

Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Loftus-Cheek made his debut back in December 2014 | Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Managers have let him down, as has his own body, but Loftus-Cheek cannot afford to be frustrated anymore. He simply doesn't have the time to focus on anything other than being a star for this current Chelsea side.

For evidence of that, you only have to look at social media. A quick search on Twitter and you'll find countless Chelsea fans screaming that Loftus-Cheek can be the best player in the Premier League, but you'll find rival laughs laughing and stunned at how someone could even have that opinion.

Nobody really knows if he's that good. Nobody has seen it.

Through very little fault of his own, Loftus-Cheek is still seen as 'potential', but he's already running out of time to live up to that. You can't be young at 24 years old. It's a little reminiscent of Harry Kane being nominated for the Young Player of the Year award in 2018 despite being the same 24 years old - a revelation which was absolutely torn apart by everyone with a brain.

Frank Lampard, Ross Barkley, Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Frank Lampard has high hopes for Loftus-Cheek | Pool/Getty Images

In Chelsea's current situation, they can't really afford to keep being 'potential'. That 'potential' has left them 30 points behind in the title race, and that's why they've moved to sign Ziyech and Werner. That's why Kai Havertz could follow suit. Chelsea need winners right now.

Competition for minutes in Chelsea's midfield is huge. Jorginho, N'Golo Kanté and Mateo Kovačić all need games. Mount has more than earned plenty of minutes. Gilmour and Ross Barkley are there as well, and Havertz could only add to the pressure on Loftus-Cheek.

If he can't fully shake off his Achilles injury and become the star which Chelsea fans believe he can be, Loftus-Cheek may soon find himself benched, with minutes just as hard to come by as they always have been. If that ends up being the case, it could well be curtains for his career at the Bridge.

On the other hand, a summer break could allow him to get back to his devastating best. A full season as a starter and he could be seen as one of English football's elite.

It could happen, but it might not. It's all up in the air right now, and that's a depressingly accurate summary of his entire career thus far.

For more from ​Tom Gott, follow him on ​Twitter!

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