It’s been a long road at Stamford Bridge for Ruben Loftus-Cheek, although the Chelsea academy graduate is finally beginning to show his long-awaited potential on a consistent basis, having forced his way into Thomas Tuchel’s first-team plans.
Eight years on from his senior debut – and after stints out on loan and with long-term injury – the 26-year-old is now an integral asset for the former Paris Saint-Germain boss, albeit with his future at the club potentially under threat.
That’s according to Italian outlet Corriere dello Sport, who are reporting that former Blues boss Maurizio Sarri is keen on a reunion with the Englishman at his current club Lazio, as the Serie A side eye a possible replacement for wantaway midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic – who has reportedly courted attention from Antonio Conte’s Tottenham Hotspur.
The report suggests that Loftus-Cheek – who has just two years left on his existing deal – could well be interested in a departure, although the west Londoners would seemingly be wise to keep him on board for the long-term.
There are perhaps frustrations that he has made just nine Premier League starts this season, although he has played the full 90 minutes in each of the last two league games, while also notably impressing in an unconventional right wing-back role in the 3-2 win over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday night.
While not perfect, that display showcased the £18m-rated star’s undeniable versatility, with the ten-cap international having now featured in five different positions so far this season, as per Transfermarkt, including taking on a rare centre-back berth in the FA Cup win over Luton Town last month.
It is seemingly his 6 foot 3 frame that makes him such an asset in a variety of roles, with former Manchester United man Rio Ferdinand labelling him as a “fantastic specimen” and also favourably comparing him to Manchester City legend Yaya Toure.
The Lewisham-born giant will need to add goals to his game to match the levels of the Ivorian – having failed to score so far this season in all competitions – although such comparisons are a sign of the high esteem in which he is held by both fans and pundits alike.
England boss Gareth Southgate is also a keen admirer of the imposing midfielder, lauding him as a “very good ball player” after selecting him in the squad for the 2018 World Cup, with the £150k-per-week star having thrived prior to Russia on-loan at Crystal Palace.
That spell at Selhurst Park perhaps remains one of the most successful and most consistent of his career, with current boss Tuchel insisting earlier this season that the youth product still needs to showcase his much-discussed “potential” week in, week out.
With another World Cup on the horizon this winter, regular game time may be in the player’s thinking as he seeks to earn an international recall – his last cap having come just under four years ago – with a reunion with Sarri potentially in his thinking to secure those consistent minutes.
Under the Italian during the 2018/19 campaign, he arguably enjoyed his best season in a Blues shirt, providing 15 goal contributions in 40 games in all competitions, before suffering a cruel Achilles injury in a friendly match on the eve of the Europa League final, causing him to be out of action for over a year.
That absence has disrupted his rhythm, although he is beginning to find it again this term, with Tuchel wise to keep his improving ace beyond this summer.
AND in other news, Sarri missed out on “world-class” talent in 2018, Chelsea paid the price…