Ruben Loftus-Cheek to reject Schalke loan to fight for Chelsea midfield spot

Dominic Fifield
The Guardian

Ruben Loftus-Cheek is set to reject the chance to move to the Bundesliga club Schalke on a season-long loan, with the midfielder determined to force his way into the Chelsea first-team.

The England player, so impressive on his one-year stay at Crystal Palace last term, made a point of returning early to Cobham for pre-season training after his World Cup exertions in order to impress the new head coach, Maurizio Sarri. Loftus-Cheek determined in Russia that, having earned eight caps over the past 10 months, he would fight for a place at Chelsea in the new campaign.

Chelsea’s eagerness to sign the Croatia midfielder Mateo Kovacic on loan from Real Madrid with no option to buy had appeared to push the youth-team graduate further down the pecking order with Schalke, who lost Max Meyer under freedom of contract to Palace this summer, now the first foreign club to express an interest in taking him on loan. The German transfer window, like those in La Liga and Ligue 1, closes on 31 August.

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Yet the 22-year-old, who is contracted with Chelsea until 2021, remains convinced he can become a first-team regular at Stamford Bridge this season and, having seen Tiémoué Bakayoko loaned to Milan, intends to stay at the club and convince Sarri he deserves greater involvement. His situation could be addressed again in the January window if opportunities have proved limited, or if Kovacic has established himself in the interim alongside Jorginho and N’Golo Kanté in midfield. Ross Barkley started as the third midfielder at the John Smith’s stadium.

Loftus-Cheek earned some praise from Sarri for his display in last week’s friendly against Lyon, for all that the Italian suggested he needed “to improve from a tactical point of view”, and came off the bench for the last 22 minutes in the 3-0 victory at Huddersfield Town on Saturday. Neither Kovacic, who completed his loan move to London last Thursday, nor the injured Cesc Fàbregas were available for that fixture. The latter is unlikely to have recovered from a knee injury in time to face his former club, Arsenal, on Saturday.

Bakayoko’s departure follows those of Kurt Zouma to Everton and Michy Batshuayi to Valencia, the latter having sought a move after confirmation he would have been considered third-choice up front behind Álvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud.

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