According to reports from The Telegraph, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Manchester United and Real Madrid could all swoop for Ruben Loftus-Cheek if Chelsea fail to agree an extended contract with the highly-rated midfielder.
The 19-year-old is arguably the Blues’ most exciting academy product since captain John Terry’s emergence in 1999, having claimed two FA Youth Cups, the U21 Premier League title and UEFA Youth League title with the club’s reserve teams and represented England 29 times at youth level.
He made his senior debut last December – a seven-minute substitute berth against Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League – and was awarded a Premier League winner’s medal last season after impressing in cameo outings against Manchester City, Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion.
Loftus-Cheek’s gangly 6 foot 3 frame is befitting of the Premier League style and particularly Chelsea’s philosophy under Jose Mourinho, whose penchant for physicality is evident enough through the likes of Nemanja Matic, Ramires, Willian and Diego Costa.
Yet, that hasn’t been enough to make the England U21 a regular in Mourinho’s match-day squads. He’s made just eight senior appearances across all competitions in the last eleven months and was hauled off at half-time during his first and only Premier League start of the current campaign – a 2-0 win over Aston Villa in October. The prodigious teenager hasn’t featured for Chelsea’s senior string since.
And the west London club’s hierarchy, particularly owner Roman Abramovich who is said to have taken a special interest in Loftus-Cheek, now fear that Mourinho’s ‘hard-line approach’ to nurturing the youngster could see him refuse to extend his Stamford Bridge contract past the end of next season.
In addition to the aforementioned issues over playing time, the Portuguese criticised Loftus-Cheek’s work-rate in pre-season and has since questioned his ‘defensive and tactical intensity‘ compared to Chelsea’s senior players.
But the midfielder’s natural pedigree is indisputable, which is why four of Europe’s biggest clubs – Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Manchester United and Real Madrid – are keeping close tabs on how the situation is unfolding at Stamford Bridge with the view to prizing him away unless a new contract is agreed.
Chelsea are desperate to not let Loftus-Cheek’s current contract go into its final twelve months, which means striking a deal before the end of the season. But without greater involvement in first team affairs, that seems unlikely.