Chelsea currently have a host of academy graduates in their first team, with the likes of Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi now stars at Stamford Bridge.
However, this current generation would’ve looked up to Ruben Loftus-Cheek a few years ago when they had aspirations of breaking into the Blues senior set-up.
Loftus-Cheek, 25, was the first player of the recent trend that has seen Chelsea youngsters make the jump from academy to the first team.
The attacking midfielder was at one stage a few years ago during Maurizio Sarri’s season in charge a real star on the pitch, plus he was a senior England international.
However, a long-term injury derailed his career, and he’s yet to get back to the high level he was once at.
He’s spent the 2020/21 season on loan with Premier League and London rivals Fulham, who Chelsea face today, and he’s not quite hit the levels most hoped.
He’s a big physical presence with great feet and has all the attributes to be a top player, but is perhaps struggling with confidence.
Fortunately, he may have just had the kind of boost he needs.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel, who has been reserved so far when asked about the club’s loaned-out players, gave a glowing verdict yesterday on Loftus-Cheek.
German boss Tuchel compared him to ex-Chelsea star Michael Ballack:
“I was quite a fan of him when he was even younger, when he came from the academy into professional football here at Chelsea. It reminded us a bit of his style of play and movements with Michael Ballack,” Tuchel said, as quoted by Football London.
“There were some links about him all the time with maybe a move to the German league so we were well aware of him and his talent. Sometimes I don’t know why things worked out as he wished and everyone wished but he is on loan now and doing well.
“He is leaving his footprints there and it would be unfair to judge him from TV, hearsay and what people say about him. I like to work with players and give my opinion then. Maybe also pretty quick but also from a direct impression.
“This is what I don’t have. I don’t know what the idea is, my opinion is or the club’s opinion is. There’s no decision made yet.”
Whether or not Loftus-Cheek can break back into the Chelsea squad remains to be seen, but there will be a large crop of supporters who would love that to happen.
The 25-year-old Blues academy graduate will return for pre-season in the summer, and it’ll be intriguing to see what Tuchel makes of him on the training pitches.