Whαt could hαve been for Ruben Loftus cheek αs Chelseα stαr set for decision 20 yeαrs in mαking

Ruben Loftus-Cheek is expected to leave Chelsea in the summer transfer window after almost 20 years at the club and football.london looks back at his mixed time

Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Ruben Loftus-Cheek could be set to leave Chelsea in the summer transfer window after almost 20 years at the club (Image: Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

In May 2019, the unthinkable happened. One of a professional footballer’s worst nightmares came true. Ruben Loftus-Cheek suffered a ruptured Achilles in a friendly against New England Revolution. It was devastating for the Chelsea midfielder.

The Blues midfielder was then sidelined for 280 days in total before making his long-awaited return in February of 2020. Such a significant chunk of his career has been missed because of injury problems but that Achilles problem – to date – is by far the worst one. It’s the type of injury to really have an impact on a player’s career, particularly an energetic midfielder like Loftus-Cheek.

Prior to that injury, Loftus-Cheek was arguably playing the best football of his career under Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea. A regular in the team, with 40 appearances to his name during that season, the English midfielder had a great chance of starting in the Europa League final against Arsenal, which was a fortnight after he suffered the Achilles problem. It was torrid luck for Loftus-Cheek.

Loftus-Cheek was building some serious momentum at Chelsea prior to the injury, but that was all halted. It was a long, long road back to fitness for the midfielder. He then spent the 2020/21 season on loan at Fulham but his time at Craven Cottage was largely underwhelming despite making 30 league appearances for the west Londoners.

The now 27-year-old then returned to Chelsea in the summer of 2021 and worked with Thomas Tuchel, who was understood to be mightily impressed by Loftus-Cheek in the first few weeks of seeing him train with the squad. That continued as the 2021/22 season went on, with Loftus-Cheek playing 40 times for the Blues in all competitions throughout the campaign. However, despite all of those appearances, it never really felt as if the midfielder was a key player for Tuchel – he was still coming off the bench in a lot of those matches.

This season, the story has been very similar. Thirty appearances in all competitions for Loftus-Cheek but he still hasn’t been a guaranteed starter, under Tuchel, Graham Potter or Frank Lampard. The fact Loftus-Cheek has been playing professionally for Chelsea since 2014 – almost a decade ago – and he only has 100 Premier League appearances for the club tells its own story.

But that Achilles injury undoubtedly left its mark on Loftus-Cheek – as it would any footballer. “I have had a lot of challenges physically and mentally that have halted my development and made things difficult,” Loftus-Cheek said last year. “The injuries I’ve had have been very difficult to deal with.

“I have had so much time off the pitch. I haven’t developed as much as I would have liked but that is how it goes. The first thing I wanted after so many setbacks and injuries was to feel happy and healthy, and now I do. It makes you appreciate the career you’ve had and how I am feeling now.”

Now, with the current season coming to an end, and a new era about to embark on Chelsea with Mauricio Pochettino expected to be confirmed as the new head coach in the near future, it looks as if Loftus-Cheek’s future will be away from Stamford Bridge. AC Milan remain in talks with Chelsea over a possible move for the midfielderfootball.london understands, and the player would be keen on starting a new chapter in his career.

Loftus-Cheek has been at Chelsea for almost 20 years, joining the club at the age of eight. There have been so many ups and downs for the midfielder at the west London club but with just over 12 months remaining on his contract – and no sign of the Blues wanting to offer him an extension – it looks like the right time for both parties to call it quits.

Two Premier League titles, a Europa League, a UEFA Super Cup and a FIFA Club World Cup – it’s everything Loftus-Cheek surely would ever have dreamed of winning for Chelsea when he was coming through the club’s academy. However, the term ‘potential’ has often been brandished about during his time with the club and he perhaps hasn’t lived up to what truly was expected of him.

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