Does Ruben Loftus-Cheek need to leave Chelsea to further his career?
Does Ruben Loftus-Cheek need to leave Chelsea to further his career?
Thursday night proved to be a historic one in the career of Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who scored his first career hat-trick in his professional career against BATE in the Europa League.
It was yet another showcase of the abundant talent the 22-year-old has, with the midfielder only being able to show glimpses to this point in a blue shirt - albeit through little fault of his own.
Looking close to home
Chelsea are still waiting for their first academy product to break through and become an established regular in the side since John Terry, with many reaching the periphery before hitting a brick wall. Early on this season, there has been the suggestion that Loftus-Cheek was the latest to enter such a predicament.
He will be well aware of the difficulties players have faced at Chelsea over the years. Many of the players in and around his own age group have been forced to move on, such as Nathan Ake, Nathaniel Chalobah and Dominic Solanke to name a few.
Elsewhere, Ola Aina and Tammy Abraham look to be trapped in the loan system, while Callum Hudson-Odoi will also be feeling frustrated at his lack of gametime early on. Clearly there was an intention of sorts to use Loftus-Cheek in some capacity this season, with the club rejecting loan offers for the England international after he impressed at the World Cup.
Competition for places
However, Chelsea and Loftus-Cheek’s own valuation of acceptable gametime looks to be some way apart. He has played just 33 minutes of Premier League football so far this season, a number which is far too low for a player with his level of talent.
He is competing with an abundance of talent in midfield at Stamford Bridge, including Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic. Ross Barkley has also proven to be an unexpected roadblock through to his path into the starting XI, having made a positive impact early on under Maurizio Sarri.
Thursday night’s hat-trick does at least put Loftus-Cheek back on the map, as he went out and made a statement in the Europa League and did exactly what Sarri will have told him to. He’s given the Italian a decision to make this weekend ahead of their visit to Burnley, though it is expected he will return to the bench.
With January just over two months away, there will certainly be a decision to be made on Loftus-Cheek, with it possible that he needs to follow the decisions of good friends Ake and Chalobah in moving on for good.
It would be with a heavy heart having been with Chelsea for a considerable time, but it could well be just what he needs to really kick on. That is unless Sarri chooses to give him regular football once again, but the early signs indicate he has preferred options in the middle of the park.
A loan move looks to certainly be on the cards and would most likely be the preferred choice for Chelsea, who won’t want to lose one of their top prospects in the fear of him thriving for one of their rivals. Crystal Palace would certainly take him back once again and they would be one of many clubs in a line to try and snap him up on loan, should he become available.
As for a permanent deal, it would likely take big money for Chelsea to let go of the midfielder, particularly given the English premium that has come with the homegrown players quota in the Premier League. One of the most intriguing moves would be one to Arsenal, who still look to be lacking a box-to-box midfielder to pair next to Lucas Torreira.
With Aaron Ramsey still yet to sign a fresh deal at the Emirates, a move to Arsenal is an interesting prospect as they potentially look to seek a replacement.
The next two months could be defining in the career of Loftus-Cheek, with it more than possible that his frustration at a lack of first-team football reaches boiling point. He must look at the likes of Jadon Sancho at Borussia Dortmund in envy, with the 18-year-old playing regular football in the Bundesliga and getting a level of exposure he has seldom experienced at a top club.
It will be intriguing to see how the situation now develops, but the player has to have a resolution which ends in him playing regular football. That doesn’t necessarily involve him leaving Chelsea, but if his position at the club doesn’t change a fresh start must seriously be considered.
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