Back in 2004, Jose Mourinho joined Chelsea as their new boss. But a considerably younger man also joined the club in the same year at the age of eight, and has been working his way through the youth system since.
That man is Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and while Mourinho is currently having a difficult time at Stamford Bridge, the promising youngster continues to improve. Here we take a closer look at the midfielder…
What position does he play?
The 19-year-old plays in the centre of midfield, excelling in both the attacking midfield and defensive midfield positions. His large, powerful frame means he can burst forward with dangerous intent, but can also break up play in front of the back four, with the youngster styling his play on current Chelsea first-choice defensive midfielder, Nemanja Matic. Using the ball effectively in the middle with a good passing range, while also having a strong defensive awareness, shows the all-round player he is.
What is his background?
Born in Lewisham, England, Loftus-Cheek hasn’t left Chelsea since joining them when he was eight, having not been sent on loan but instead allowed to work his way up through the club’s youth system. He captained the club’s Under-18s side as they won the FA Youth Cup and has been a regular in the Under-21 side, impressing staff at Chelsea enough to warrant a first-team call-up at the end of last season. Similarly, he has reached U-21 level with England, making six appearances and scoring once.
How far can he go?
Chelsea have reportedly already had enquiries from Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich thanks to his impressive performances in the Blues’ set up, and if he keeps improving as he has done throughout the youth system and establishes a place in the first-team, he certainly can make a big impression in the world of football. Despite Chelsea’s current rough patch of form, he is surrounded by experienced winners and quality footballers, all of whom he can learn from and build his game with; certainly a bonus for the promising teenager.
What are his best attributes?
At 6ft 4in, Loftus-Cheek is a big presence and can command the middle of the field very well as a result. His large frame comes in handy when shielding the ball and holding-up the play, and he is calm in possession.
He loves driving forward powerfully from deep positions to allow the team to gain valuable yards up the field, whilst also setting up dangerous attacks.
What could hold him back?
Chelsea have recently struggled to find places in the first-team for youth prospects, often spending large amounts in the market to plug gaps, and especially with a worrying form book, big-name panic buys to resurrect the dire situation could see first-team places further limited for him.
He has also been criticised by Mourinho in pre-season for lacking enthusiasm in the defensive side of his game, which Loftus-Cheek readily admits, however, he has since stated a determination to rectify this weakness.