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.
With no option to buy the Croatian international next summer, the Blues seem to be more focused on developing other sides' youngsters before looking closer to home.
Pushing Loftus-Cheek further down the pecking order, Sarri also has the likes of 2010 World Cup winner Cesc Fabregas and Premier League medalist Danny Drinkwater vying for the final midfield spot.
With the England boss constantly stating that only players featuring on a regular basis will be picked for his squad, a move to the Bundesliga could be a surprisingly good option.
How other youngsters have fared in Germany
While on paper the idea of a young English starlet heading to Germany still seems slightly odd, it has become a growing trend over the past 18 months. Jadon Sancho, Ademola Lookman, Reece Oxford... The list goes on.
With England's U17 World Cup winner Sancho opting to make the switch from Manchester City to Borrusia Dortmund last year, the 18-year-old has become a firm favorite at the Westfalenstadion.
Playing on the left of a midfield four with Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and fellow highly touted youngster Christian Pulisic, Sancho has proven a move to Germany can offer you more opportunities.
If you also want to find youth development in Germany, look no further than Schalke. Known as 'the talent mine in Gelsenkirchen', the seven-time Bundesliga champions have produced the likes of Ivan Rakitic and Julian Draxler.
Carrying on their promise to offer youth the platform to perform, Loftus-Cheek should also look at the job Tedesco has done with USA teenager Weston McKennie.
The 19-year-old holding midfielder was handed a leading role by his boss and after making 22 Bundesliga appearances last year, the Texan native is attracting interest from all over Europe.
Although a move to Germany may have him thinking he could be out of Sarri's eye-line, could a season at Schalke be exactly what Loftus-Cheek needs?
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