As he nears the sixth month anniversary of his Achilles rupture, Ruben Loftus-Cheek can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s been a long road to recovery, and there is still a bit to go, but he’s getting close.
“[The recovery] is going well! It’s been a long time and I’ve had a few setbacks as well. It’s never been just a straight path but I’m close now … I’ve been running and moving, I feel I’m right on the edge. I’m close and I can’t wait.”
Usually lumped in with the Chelsea “youth”, Loftus-Cheek doesn’t really fit that definition anymore. A fully established England international with World Cup experience, he trail-blazed the path that many of the current youth are now following. As he enters his mid-20s, the focus isn’t so much about winning a place, but rather getting back to playing regularly — while continuing to provide an example for the younger players coming through.
“A lot of people still call me young but I don’t feel in that category anymore … but I think they feel that because I haven’t played as many first team games as other players my age. In experience I feel young but I’m sure after this injury I can hit the ground running and keep playing regularly.”
“It’s a good time to be a Chelsea fan with the amount of academy prospects coming through and doing so well in the team. Scoring goals and being so young, the future is really bright. The vibe around the place is wicked so it’s good times ahead.”
“It feels good to be the one who led the way for the boys coming through. It’s good to know that the boys look up to you as you have done it before them … and those boys who look up to me will soon have younger boys who will look up to them so it all goes hand in hand. The more academy graduates in the team, the better.”
In more immediate goals, Loftus-Cheek is targeting a midseason return to match action, with a view towards a possible Euro 2020 squad spot, too. It may be an ambitious goal, but he overcame a late-season fractured ankle two seasons ago to make the 2018 World Cup team, and that was a much more of a timeline crunch.
“Of course [Euro 2020 is a target]! Hopefully now I can get half a season of playing well and stake my claim. Obviously going to the World Cup and playing a little bit there helps — and hopefully playing regularly in the Chelsea team is the start I need to get back with the national team.”
-Ruben Loftus-Cheek; source: Versus
Injuries have been a defining feature of Ruben’s young career so far, almost as much as his long journey from the youth academy and the fringes of the first-team to one of the first names on the team sheet.
Once he does return, there will be plenty of strong competition for minutes all across the midfield — assuming others are healthy as well, which may be a bold assumption to make given the evidence of the season so far — but we know RLC’s quality by now and his unique skillset and size that makes him a nightmare for opposing defenders and midfielders. With him, Kanté, Kovačić, and Jorginho all healthy, we should be set for some good times in midfield.