Four days ago Ruben Loftus-Cheek told media assembled in Russia for the World Cup that playing time will decide which club he will want to work for next season.
“That’s the key for me next season regarding where I end up: I want to play. I want to play as much as I can. And even this past season I didn’t play as much as I would have liked, because of the injuries and stuff, so I still feel I need a proper season of playing, wherever it is.”
-Ruben Loftus-Cheek; source: Guardian
It was a statement not at all dissimilar to what we’ve heard from many loanees over the years, including those who ended up re-integrating with the first-team squad in Courtois and Christensen. It still caused a sensation among the red tops and serious media outlets alike. An ultimatum to Chelsea, they claimed, even though he’d said it all before, just two weeks ago. Ruben has previously expressed regret already that it took him until last season to recognize that playing full-time somewhere, anywhere, was better for his growth than sticking to Chelsea and feeding on scraps.
“I do understand Chelsea are a big club and there is always pressure on managers to win games and trophies. So I understand they might not be willing to take a chance on someone at a bigger club.”
-Ruben Loftus-Cheek; source: Mirror
That may be about to change. With a (slow-motion) change in regime happening at Chelsea, it may be that RLC will find his playing time at home. His style of football — plus his impressive spell at Crystal Palace last season and a tidy World Cup so far — may convince Chelsea’s presumptive new head coach, Maurizio Sarri, that he’d be a good fit for the expected high-energy, passing-oriented attack.
But if it doesn’t, Loftus-Cheek won’t go begging for opportunities. Roy Hodgson has gone on at length about how much he wants the 22 year-old back at Crystal Palace next season, to the extent that he’s now comparing him to Germany and Chelsea legend Michael Ballack.
Should RLC tire of the friendly confines of Selhurst Park, he’ll apparently have his choice to two other famous stadiums to play in.
One is St. James’ Park, where Rafa Benitez has been a long-time admirer — it was actually Benitez who first promoted RLC from the youth team and took him on a post-season tour, after all. Benitez reportedly feels that Ruben’s versatility would give him options at four positions (deep-lying playmaker or attacking midfielder left, right, or center), and give Newcastle’s midfield the dynamism it’s currently short on. Where that would leave Kenedy, who had a successful loan spell for the Magpies last season, is anyone’s guess, but Loftus-Cheek is apparently seen as a higher priority than the winger/wingback who might yet (re-)join on a permanent transfer.
Also courting Loftus-Cheek are Everton and their new manager, Marco Silva. Silva and his director of football, Marcel Brands (formerly of PSV), envision a revitalized midfield that pairs RLC with Jack Wilshere, newly released by Arsenal. They feel that would propel Everton above their usual also-ran status in the (upper) mid-table.
So a smörgåsbord of choices lie ahead for the Chelsea man, who insists he’s focused entirely on the World Cup right now. But as we all know, there is only one right choice. Make it so, Maurizio.