Tuchel offers Loftus-Cheek hope at Chelsea by comparing him to Ballack

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<span>Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Thomas Tuchel has given Ruben Loftus-Cheek hope of staying at Chelsea by comparing the midfielder to Michael Ballack and saying he will make no decision on the Fulham loanee’s future before watching him train.

Loftus-Cheek joined Fulham to kickstart his career after a serious achilles injury and is determined to prove himself when he returns to Stamford Bridge this summer. The 25-year-old is unfazed by the competition for places at Chelsea and he hopes to use pre-season to impress Tuchel, who praised the England international by likening him to one of Germany’s greatest players.

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“I was quite a fan of him when he was even younger,” Chelsea’s manager said. “It reminded us a bit of his style of play and movements with Michael Ballack. There were some links about him all the time with maybe a move to the German league so we were well aware of his talent.

“He is on loan now and doing well. It would be unfair to judge him from TV. I like to work with players and give my opinion then – maybe also pretty quick but also from a direct impression. I don’t know what my opinion is or the club’s opinion is. There’s no decision made yet.”

Loftus-Cheek is ineligible to face his parent club when Fulham, seven points below Brighton in 17th place, visit Stamford Bridge. It is another big game for Chelsea, who will hope to take a firm grip on fourth before the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid next Wednesday.

The tough schedule has stopped Tuchel from exploring London since the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions. The German, who said that he wanted to find some bookshops when he joined Chelsea in January, remains focused on his work.

“I am stuck in the bubble and the schedule,” he said. “The schedule does not allow anything else than football and a bit of mental recovery with a book at home. Now is not the time to take any risk. I want to be involved in the last weeks. When the season is over then it is enough time to buy new books.”