It’s odd to think about domestic football at the moment, granted. With our throats still dry from belting out ‘Football’s Coming Home’ at every given opportunity, and our every waking thought dominated by England’s chances in the World Cup and the horrific possibility of Phil Jones playing again, it’s difficult to try and put any kind of focus on matters back in the homeland.
With Chelsea, this is especially difficult. With no communication over the future of Antonio Conte, and not a shred of planning in comparison with our fellow sides (such as making new signings, or tying down established stars to new contracts), it all just feels a bit hollow. Well, here’s something to jerk you out of the World Cup fever – the future of Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Against all odds, the Chelsea youth academy product has risen to national stardom – thanks to the faith of England manager Gareth Southgate, not the Blues hierarchy – and is now an integral part of the national team. It seems bizarre, then, that Chelsea are genuinely considering sending him back out on loan again next season.
Bizarre is one word, infuriating is another, and I’d imagine there are a few other, less appropriate words that would sum up the opinion of Chelsea fans of the board’s treatment of the midfield prodigy. They’ve done it before on numerous occasions, farmed out players on loan until they finally realise they’ll never play for the Blues, and are merely there to generate cash.
Of course, football is a business, and the Blues board are well within their rights to hoard and hone Europe’s top talents, before selling them on for a profit. However, if you look at the examples of Mohamed Salah, Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, this approach is evidently failing, and is giving Chelsea’s opponents a clear advantage as we continue to falter.
Loftus-Cheek has, quite understandably, made his concerns about his Chelsea future well known. As a now fully fledged England international, the prospect of sitting on the bench at Stamford Bridge is unthinkable, and the idea of more uncertainty via a new loan move is an equally unattractive. There is now doubt that he will leave if not given his rightful chance at Chelsea.
Yes, Chelsea are brimming with midfielders at the moment. The decision to sign Ross Barkley, with Loftus-Cheek on the books, was a desperate, ill-advised move from the board, and could well prove costly should the 22-year-old chose to leave the club. Selling the likes of Barkley is now pivotal to keeping Loftus-Cheek, but the likelihood of this transpiring is extremely slim.
Take a look at Spurs and Harry Kane, at Manchester United and Marcus Rashford, at Liverpool and Trent Alexander-Arnold, and it’s clear to see that putting faith in your own young talents can reap rewards. To let Loftus-Cheek leave the club, when he’s bursting with potential, would be catastrophic, and demonstrate that the board are completely out of touch with the game.
Chelsea looked drab, lifeless and uninspiring at times last season, and were crying out for Loftus-Cheek (and a number of their countless other loanees) to return and add some energy to the side. Should the board loan out the player again – and it will be the board’s choice – then we can kiss goodbye to a player with the potential to be our best midfielder since Frank Lampard.