Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s Man of the Match performance against Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday was cut short by about ten minutes, when he was substituted off for Mateo Kovačić in the 82nd minute. Even though the reason for the change was a cramp, it still brought focus back onto Ruben’s recurring injury problems, especially his nagging back issue that had caused him to miss significant time earlier this season and has been a thing for at least the past five years as well.
The 23-year-old had recently talked about the fitness management procedures he’s going through these days to keep himself fit and available for selection, including yoga, and after the game, he claimed that those routiens are working a treat.
“It’s really good, I’ve been working hard; I haven’t felt my back in a while, so those are really good signs and I hope to build on that. I can only get stronger, fitter and faster. So for me I just keep my head down, keep working hard, keep a positive attitude. Hopefully the injury’s calmed down and I can play regularly.”
-Ruben Loftus-Cheek; source: FourFourTwo
Head coach Maurizio Sarri paints a slightly less rosy picture however, and believes that this is something that RLC will have to deal with and manage practically for the rest of his career.
That said, Sarri doesn’t think surgery will be necessary — assuming surgery could even fix this mystery problem — though it should be pointed out that he’s no medical expert. Still, pain and fitness management is something that can be handled without causing a player to miss significant chunks of time and thus shorten his career.
“I don’t think he will need surgery. We have to control him. He needs, probably, a particular way of training for sure. I think [he will suffer the problems] for a long period, probably for ever. But we can avoid an operation. In the last month he has been able to train every day so, for us, it’s really very important. Now he is fit and, in Germany, he played very well before suffering from cramp. That can happen of course. But I am really very happy with him.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Guardian
It was Loftus-Cheek’s 37th appearance of the season. the start against Eintracht Frankfurt, but thanks in large part to those injury issues, only 15 of those have been starts and he still trails last year’s minutes total at Crystal Palace by over 200. He could (should) yet beat that in the remaining 3-4 games this season.
Either way, the narrative has been successfully changed over the course of this season from RLC looking to leave to him being one of the leaders of the future at Chelsea. Recent tabloid rumblings have indicated that he may in line for a new contract as well, and with just two years left on his contract, it’s certainly high time for it.