Ruben Loftus-Cheek didn’t just score a hat-trick against BATE Borisov in the Europa League, he set some records as well. He became the first Chelsea player since Didier Drogba in 2006 to score a hat-trick in Europe, for example, a statistic that pleased him when, clutching his game ball — “I’ll get this signed, framed and put in a glass box” — a Sky reporter told him about it in the tunnel after the match.
“Yeah, it’s up there, obviously, scoring three goals, my first hat trick in a while, even for youth team and stuff, so it feels nice. And that stat was really nice to hear.”
It wasn’t just that RLC scored three goals. It was the overall excellence of his attacking game that caught the eye. He was masterful on the ball and showed all the pace and physicality that makes supporters dream of greater things.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek's game by numbers vs. BATE Borisov:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 25, 2018
72 (95%) passes completed
7 take-ons completed
4 shots on target
3 chances created
Showing exactly what he's capable of. pic.twitter.com/Pf22IA2Wmc
And yet, he didn’t come off the pitch demanding to start against Burnley on the weekend.
“I’m not thinking about that. Right now, it’s to get my recovery in — my hamstrings are feeling it a bit.”
And his first thoughts weren’t of feeling entitled or feeling hard-done-by that it’s taken this long to start playing somewhat regularly. Instead, they were of working hard to keep improving and to earn his place against the depth in Chelsea’s midfield.
“It’s good, healthy competition. We’re doing so well at the moment, that competition really drives the team. That’s why we’ve been doing so well because everyone wants to do well in training — training is so sharp. We’re all so effective in training it brings the best out of the team. No complaints on that and we keep that going.”
In his post-match comments, Maurizio Sarri chose to focus on the defensive shortcomings of all of his midfielders, save N’Golo Kanté. That won’t come as a surprise to Ruben — “he’s always trying to help me, defensively and position-wise” — and he thinks working on it is the key to his growth.
“Definitely, but I’ll always improve as a player day by day, technically and tactically from training. The more I play the better I’ll get as well. My target at the moment is to get my positioning right and the rest will come after that.”
“The first thing in my head is to keep training well. Even though I’m playing well it’s really important to train as hard as I can to keep fitness up and keep sharp for when times like this do come, when I get an opportunity to start or come on.
“So first things first, to keep doing good habits, keep eating well, sleeping well and training well and know that if I keep doing that good things will come.”
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, source: Sky Sports
Now that sounds like the kind of attitude that will take him far.