Over the last seven days, you could be forgiven for thinking that Palace have a global superstar on their books in the shape of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, with his Chelsea teammate Willian the latest in a string of high-profile names to publicly question Antonio Conte over his decision to send the 21-year-old out on loan.
Since moving to Selhurst Park on a season-long loan in the summer, Ruben has established himself as a key part of the Eagles’ first-team, giving Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate the opportunity to promote him to the senior side and start him against world champions Germany at Wembley last Friday. Following a Man of the Match performance in the middle of the park, the English press have been working themselves into a frenzy over his potential but I doubt I’m the only one who’s a tad shocked to hear a current Chelsea first-teamer insisting that the club bring him back as soon as possible.
Having made 17 appearances for the Blues in all competitions this season, it’s difficult to see any reason why Willian would be keen to rock the boat significantly by criticising Antonio Conte’s transfer policy, particularly when he could find himself replaced by Loftus-Cheek if he does indeed return and win a place in the defending champions’ starting XI.
Of course, it’s possible that the Brazilian has just got carried away with Ruben’s potential given the tidal-wave of attention he’s generated in recent days but even so, his comments make little to no logical sense from the perspective of an outsider looking in. With Chelsea’s approach to youth development having come in for plenty of stick over the years, the last thing they need is for one of their own to publicly state that they made a mistake in letting a talented player leave.
The cynic in me would suggest that, had Loftus-Cheek never left Chelsea, neither Willian or any prominent pundits would have uttered a word about him this season but in 2017, analysis of a player often only takes place when those with the biggest platforms are spoon-fed information, making Loftus-Cheek a prime target for them to latch onto in the midst of an international lull.
I dare say this isn’t the last we’ll hear of this particular story.