Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been at Chelsea for four years. In the third year of his tenure, he went on loan to Crystal Palace. That same year, he received a call up to represent his country. The reason why? He played.
On his single year’s loan to the south London side, RLC amassed one more league appearance than he had with Chelsea since 2014. Roy Hodgson showcased his talent to the world and Gareth Southgate duly responded. At the end of his spell with the Eagles, the 22-year-old went back to Stamford Bridge and has since been left out of Maurizio Sarri’s squad.
The song, it would appear, remains the same, and one of England’s brightest talents is now set for another spell of stagnating inactivity until at least January.
Supporting this view, Chelsea have signed Jorginho from Napoli and loaned in Mateo Kovacic from Real Madrid, pushing Loftus-Cheek further down the pecking order in south-west London. The fella will sit idle on the Blues’ bench when he could be learning, playing and developing at a club where his talent would be better valued.
Just why Chelsea insist on hiding his abilities is beyond reason. Bringing in players ahead of him clearly highlights that there is not – and never has been – any plan to utilise Loftus-Cheek at all. The board and gaffer have evidently envisaged a season without him but chosen to keep him regardless.
Surely, if this is all about raking in a hefty profit down the line, then selling him after a debut World Cup tournament and blistering domestic season would be the best time to do so?
Should they finally opt to scrub the lad’s name from their books, by January his value would have dropped or frozen and it won’t increase until he’s awarded the game time he needs to display his talents.
Sitting on Chelsea’s bench – or in the stands – the versatile midfielder will never get a chance to fit into Sarri’s side. If he gets 15 minutes here or there, how’s he going to look in a system that, by all accounts, takes time to get used to? And with a midfield to rival any, the Blues will only serve to make RLC seem poorer than he is.
Put simply, he can only get less attractive for other clubs from here, and this will drive down both his price tag and size of the club he moves to. Had they sold him, hypothetically, to Crystal Palace, they could have included a sell-on clause that meant Chelsea could take a chunk of the profit from his inevitably sizeable transfer fee.
Better still, had they loaned him out, he could have demonstrated his ability elsewhere for the same cost and ended up being sold for a higher sum come the end of the season; likely to the club adopting him.
The focus here is financial because with Chelsea it’s all about money; that’s why Stamford Bridge has two hotels on site.
Crystal Palace reportedly did everything they could to bring their one-season talisman to Selhurst Park but didn’t have the luxury of a blank cheque and therefore failed to retain the midfielder’s services.
Perhaps there’s something else going on too. Chelsea appear to be hoarding Loftus-Cheek almost so that no one else can use him. If Chelsea can’t, no one can. It’s as if they’re stockpiling talents not for their own use, but simply to inhibit others.
Obviously, if a club has the resources to do this then it makes perfect sense, but it’s detrimental to a player’s career. While Chelsea are famous for wasting talent – De Bruyne, Salah, Lukaku made it after breaking from the Blues, others haven’t been so lucky – what they’re doing with Ruben Loftus-Cheek seems worse.
They ultimately allowed the aforementioned stars to depart and they were lesser known talents when wearing the blue of Chelsea. Loftus-Cheek, however, is a high-profile England international who would have clubs queuing to sign him.
Holding him captive is doing nothing but wasting the lad’s talent and time.
If there’s any semblance of a logical conclusion to Loftus-Cheek’s time with Chelsea, it’ll be found in him leaving this January. Leaving properly, we mean. Not just hanging on to the puppet-master with an ever-fraying thread.