Since Roman Abramovich’s arrival at Chelsea in 2003, many promising youth players have fallen by the wayside and failed to make a mark at Stamford Bridge.
No academy player has forced their way into Chelsea’s starting XI since John Terry, but with the emergence of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, this trend could be set to change.
In December 2014, Loftus-Cheek replaced Cesc Fabregas for the last seven minutes of a UEFA Champions League group stage game against Sporting Lisbon, marking the Englishman’s senior debut for the club.
Since then, the midfielder has been widely touted as a future star and possibly a potential Chelsea starter. He made his Premier League debut for Chelsea in January 2015, coming on for Oscar in stoppage time in a 1-1 draw with Manchester City.
The following month, Loftus-Cheek was promoted into Jose Mourinho’s squad on a permanent basis. Later in the season, he started in a Premier League game against Liverpool, ending the match with a 100% pass completion rate.
Loftus-Cheek later played against West Bromwich Albion. Despite only playing three league games that season, Loftus-Cheek was still awarded a Premier League winners medal, after the club bought medals for all of their squad players.
During a post-season match against Sydney FC, then-Chelsea manager Mourinho criticised Loftus-Cheek’s performance. He said:
He has to learn that at 19, you have to run three times more than the others, you have to play to your limits and not play like a superstar with the ball at your feet because this is not Under-18s.
However, Mourinho went on to say:
Loftus-Cheek cannot waste his talent by not wanting to give everything he can. I always think if you don’t have talent you can’t blame yourself. But when you are a big talent you cannot waste your talent.
Despite reported interest, Mourinho did not allow Loftus-Cheek to leave the club on loan, suggesting the midfielder will be heavily involved in Chelsea’s first team for the 2015/16 season.
He made his first appearance of the season in a 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace in August. His first start of the season came in September in a 4-0 win over Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv, putting in a man of the match performance. The Englishman also made a start in the Capital One Cup win against League One outfit Walsall.
Following Mourinho’s sacking in December 2015, Loftus-Cheek has featured a few times under new interim manager Guus Hiddink, featuring prominently from the bench.
In an FA Cup third round game against Scunthorpe United, Loftus-Cheek scored his first Chelsea goal in a 2-0 win over the League Two side. His goal was met with delight from the Chelsea owner, whose millions worth of investments revolutionised the Chelsea academy.
There is no doubt that Loftus-Cheek can stake a claim for first-team football at Stamford Bridge. If the young Englishman does this, he could become the first academy player to be a Chelsea regular since the current Chelsea captain.
What do you think? Can Loftus-Cheek become a regular at Stamford Bridge? Will he emulate the success of the last regular from Chelsea’s academy, Terry? Comment below!