Former Chelsea winger Joe Cole has lavished praise on Ruben Loftus-Cheek after fighting his way into Thomas Tuchel’s first-team plans.
The 25-year-old academy graduate has been getting considerable playing time for the European champions this season, starting the last two Premier League matches, while also enjoying a 53-minute run-out in the 4-0 win over Juventus the game prior, after replacing an injured N’Golo Kante.
The England international was expected to consolidate a starting berth for years to come in Chelsea’s midfield following a breakthrough season on loan at Crystal Palace, but a serious achilles injury suffered in May 2019 kept him out of action for over a year, and he subsequently fell down the pecking order.
A loan move to Fulham followed last season, and despite playing regularly at Craven Cottage, he failed to make a significant impression as the Cottagers went down. As such, he was not expected to nudge his way to the front of the queue under Tuchel this season, particularly after the Blues brought Saul Niguez to the club.
But, it has been the academy graduate who has been making all the noise in Tuchel’s midfield this season, and not the club’s marquee summer signing. He has featured 14 times, including four appearances in the Champions League, and looks an authoritative presence in Tuchel’s set-up.
“He’s been outstanding,” Joe Cole said on Amazon Prime.
“A lot of people raised eyebrows when he stayed there because it didn’t quite work for Ruben when he was at Fulham last year.
“He looked disinterested and looked like he was carrying injury but he’s been outstanding.
“He’s actually been the pick of the bunch for Chelsea. He looks fit, strong, lean.
“That’s the demands he (Tuchel) sets. He’s gone clean slate and (said) this is what’s expected, this is the level.
“You’re either on the train with us or you jump off and Ruben has jumped on the train and he’s driving the train at the moment.”