Ruben Loftus-Cheek scored his first goal for Crystal Palace in their come-from-behind victory against Stoke last Saturday, prompting plenty of Chelsea fans to express a mixture of bafflement and anger at their decision to let him leave Stamford Bridge over the summer.
Having become a pivotal part of the Eagles midfield under Roy Hodgson, earning a full England call-up in the process, Ruben has proven to anyone who has watched him regularly since August, that he’s more than capable of competing at Premier League level from week to week.
Whilst Antonio Conte was happy to shuffle his midfield pack over the summer, letting Nemanja Matic leave for Manchester United and bringing in Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco for a reported £40 million, the decision to loan out Loftus-Cheek to a Premier League rival has gone down like a figurative tonne of bricks amongst the Blues faithful, many of whom are desperate to see one of their brightest and longest serving academy stars given a chance to shine at first-team level.
Given the exposure Loftus-Cheek had during the recent international break, it’s hard to imagine Chelsea being too open to the idea of allowing him to leave west London on a permanent basis over the summer of 2018 but after the negative comments both Ruben and his father made about the midfield man’s treatment at Stamford Bridge, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him personally favouring a move to SE25 just yet.
England boss Gareth Southgate has already gone on record to say that players will not be picked for the national side if they are not playing regularly at club level, giving players like Loftus-Cheek real pause for thought. In the short time he’s been on the books at Palace, the 21-year-old has enjoyed more first-team starts than he has had in the entirety of his professional career at Chelsea; a fact which would almost certainly make a permanent move to Selhurst Park enticing for him, should we manage to survive the drop in May.
Clearly thriving in an attacking midfield role alongside the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend, Ruben could just end up being the difference between relegation and survival for us. Let’s hope he’s enjoying life enough in south London to consider making his stay a longer one.