Ruben Loftus-Cheek has had an interesting journey over the last few years, spending time at Chelsea’s junior side and failing to make the breakthrough on a regular basis to the seniors before going out on loan to Palace last season.
Chelsea’s management situation continues to be unresolved, with Antonio Conte still in charge, though he is expected to leave and be replaced by Napoli’s Maurizio Sarri.
The Daily Express are reporting that Everton are frontrunners for him now, with Merseyside rivals Liverpool also in the running, while Chelsea might look to offload Tiemoue Bakayoko and use him instead.
Loftus-Cheek is a versatile big-bodied player with an excellent workrate. In his 25 games for Palace last season, he lined up just about everywhere in the midfield, out on both wings, and mostly as a box-to-box midfielder. At just 22, he is what Ross Barkley could have been, which is doubly ironic considering the Stamford Bridge side added Barkley from Everton in January.
He had two goals and five assists last season, and has five international caps for the Three Lions, along with 38 youth team appearances scoring 15 times.
For his part, the London-born player wants more playing time and knows he’ll struggle getting that in a squad as large as Chelsea’s.
“That’s the key for me next season regarding where I end up. I want to play. I want to play as much as I can.
“Even this past season I didn’t play as much as I would have liked to because of the injuries. So I still feel I need a proper season of playing.
“I do understand Chelsea is a big club and there is always pressure on managers to win games and trophies.
“We’ll see what happens. I’m confident in my ability and that I can do well, wherever it is.”
New Everton manager Marco Silva likes to play with a 4-3-3 formation, with one defensive midfielder at the base of the middle trio and at least one creative, attacking midfielder as well, which leaves one spot open for a box-to-box type midfielder.
Idrissa Gueye tends to go walkabout and is not the best choice for the pivot role ahead of the defence, but if Morgan Schneiderlin leaves and Silva wants to put Gana there, then Loftus-Cheek can play alongside Gylfi Sgurdsson with Tom Davies as first change.
Loftus-Cheek’s versatility also means he can be used to back up Theo Walcott, Ademola Lookman or Yannick Bolasie out on the wings. The Blues have been linked with a number of box-to-box midfielder types, including Jack Wilshere, Badou Ndiaye, Daniel Wass and more, but the upside of Loftus-Cheek is well ahead of all the rest.
The youngster will not come cheap, especially since he is already an England international, but in keeping with what the Blues are trying to do with developing English talent and three years still left on his Chelsea deal, splashing the cash for him will be worthwhile.