Chelsea: Should Ruben Loftus-Cheek consider a season in Germany?
With so much depth in competition to get into Sarri’s 4-3-3 formation, could interest from Schalke be a smart career move for 22-year-old Ruben Loftus-Cheek?
Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley
Much like last summer, it appears that Ruben Loftus-Cheek is a man in demand. It is being widely reported that last year’s Bundesliga runners-up Schalke have joined the race to acquire the services of the eight-cap England international on a one-year loan deal.
The Royal Blues will be in no rush to complete a potential deal though, as the German transfer window, like those in La Liga and Ligue 1, closes on 31 August.
While word coming out of Stamford Bridge is that the 22-year-old would prefer to stay put in West London — and even returned to Cobham early for pre-season — Loftus-Cheek had to settle for a place on the bench last weekend.
With Schalke enjoying their best football in years under a highly touted manager who encourages expression and youth development, is the England international too quick to dismiss a move to the Bundesliga?
The Schalke revolution
Renowned as one of the best young coaches in European football, Schalke’s 32-year-old boss Domenico Tedesco has started a revolution at the Arena AufSchalke.
Finishing tenth in the Bundesliga just two years ago, the youngest boss in Germany guided the Royal Blues to a second place finish in his first season in charge. Switching formations and turning his attention to bringing through youth, Schalke are a team on the rise.
A player that epitomizes what Tedesco can offer Loftus-Cheek is new Crystal Palace signing Max Meyer. Although the 24-year-old was renowned as an attacking winger in his early years in Germany, the young coach had breathed new life in the German international.
Playing a 3-4-1-2 with Schalke last season, Tedesco installed Meyer as one of his more defensive-minded midfielders and molded him into a ball-playing midfielder with an eye for a tackle. In fact, the now former Schalke youth product completed 92% of his passes last year, one of the highest in the Bundesliga.
With Sarri encouraging his midfielders to have well-grounded defensive skills, the chance to learn under Tedesco and play regular football in front of a capacity of nearly 70,000 every week could offer Loftus-Cheek some precious experience.
Notably, Schalke even have the ability to offer the young central midfielder something that even Roman Abramovich cannot give him… Champions League football.
The land of the central midfielder
Although it seems the youngster has his heart set on fighting for his position at Stamford Bridge, new Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri has an overload of central midfielders in his squad. While Tiemoue Bakayoko has now finalized a move to AC Milan on a season-long loan, Chelsea still have seven first-team players who primarily play in the centre of the park.
Although Loftus-Cheek’s potential decision to try and play his way into Sarri’s new look 4-3-3 formation is commendable, the 22-year-old faces some incredibly stiff competition and a year of mainly featuring in the EFL Cup could be detrimental to what many would say has been a breakout year for him.
Making 24 Premier League appearances while on-loan at Crystal Palace last season, the six foot three midfielder was a pivotal part of Roy Hodgson’s late climb up the table. Despite only scoring two goals and getting three assists for the Eagles, Loftus-Cheek played his way into England’s 23 man World Cup squad.
However, with summer signing Jorginho following his old boss to West London, the midfielder has embodied the ‘Sarri-Ball’ brand of play and is a shoo-in to partner N’Golo Kante in Chelsea’s midfield three.
With Ross Barkley featuring throughout pre-season and starting their first Premier League outing against Huddersfield, Chelsea have also brought in highly touted Real Madrid central midfielder Mateo Kovacic.