Ruben Loftus-Cheek could leave Chelsea on loan in January but will not be sold, sources have told ESPN FC.
Having played just 33 minutes in the Premier League so far this season, Loftus-Cheek is frustrated at his lack of opportunities under Maurizio Sarri and has reportedly attracted interest from Arsenal, Everton and Crystal Palace, the club who helped him develop on loan last season.
But while all parties accept that another temporary move could be best for Loftus-Cheek’s development if his situation does not improve, the midfielder does not expect to leave on a permanent deal and Chelsea remain opposed to selling one of their brightest academy graduates.
Sarri has been vocal about Loftus-Cheek’s need to improve tactically if he wants to see off competition from N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley for an advanced midfield role in the starting XI, and the Italian is also looking for a greater goal threat from behind his front three.
Barkley staked his claim to be the answer by capping an impressive performance with a goal and an assist in Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Southampton prior to the October international break, at the end of a week that saw him recalled to the England squad as Loftus-Cheek missed out.
Sarri wanted to give Loftus-Cheek a chance to impress in Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool in the Carabao Cup third round in September, but a badly-timed foot injury sidelined the 22-year-old just as Cesc Fabregas made his return to full fitness to further increase competition for places in midfield.
Chelsea will play seven matches in 22 days across all competitions after the international break, and Loftus-Cheek’s level of involvement is likely to determine whether or not he feels he has a role to play under Sarri this season.
Loftus-Cheek’s contract at Stamford Bridge runs until June 2021, and Chelsea often commit their most valuable fringe players to long-term extensions before loaning them out in order to preserve their value.
It is not clear how open Loftus-Cheek would be to signing a new deal as long as his first-team future at Chelsea remains uncertain.