Chelsea prodigy Ruben Loftus-Cheek says he accepts Jose Mourinho’s biting criticism of his performance during the club’s post-season tour in Australia and believes that with his manager’s guidance he can become an established first-team player.
Speaking for the first time about Mourinho’s scathing assessment of his performance against Sydney FC earlier this month on post-season tour, Loftus-Cheek, 19, said that he recognised he had been well-below par on the day and pledged to do better.
The teenager made an impressive substitute’s appearance for the England Under-21s during their 1-0 win over their Swedish counterparts in the Czech Republic yesterday. The win means that they are in contention to qualify for the semi-finals of the European championships when they play Italy on Wednesday.
At the start of the month, Mourinho was uncompromising in his criticism of Loftus-Cheek who made four senior appearances last season and is regarded as the current best prospect Chelsea have of finally getting a player from their academy into their first team in the Roman Abramovich era.
In Australia, Mourinho said: “Ruben has to learn that, at 19, you have to run three times as much as the other guys and you have to play to your limits … I don’t accept that a player … when we don’t have the ball, doesn’t press, doesn’t have intensity and is waiting for other people to recover the ball. I don’t accept that of superstars, so why should I accept it in a 19-year-old kid? He has to learn what it takes to play for us.”
Speaking after the Sweden game in Olomouc, Loftus-Cheek said that he had taken Mourinho’s words on-board. He said: “Yes, I listened to what the manager said and I wasn’t at the level. I need to do better - and I need to do better if I want to play for Chelsea. For me that is a reminder that I have to work hard to get in the team.”
Asked whether he could become a Chelsea player under Mourinho, Loftus-Cheek said: “Yes, I will listen to him and learn from him every way I can, I really want to work hard now. Hopefully [I can make the breakthrough]. I just need to have a good pre-season. I want to work really hard, Chelsea is always hard to break into but I believe in myself. If I work hard then hopefully things will go well.”
Loftus-Cheek is the youngest member of Southgate’s squad having only recently been promoted to the Under-21s on the basis of his performances for Chelsea towards the end of the season. The midfielder came on for Spurs’ Tom Carroll with 17 minutes left, during which time Jesse Lingard scored the winning goal.
Southgate and his No 2 Steve Holland, who does the same job for Mourinho at Chelsea, now have to decide whether the teenager will start Wednesday’s game. Loftus-Cheek said that despite the huge expectation on him at Chelsea he tried not to let the pressure affect him.
“All I do is try to do my best and I try to enjoy my football as well. I don’t really let the pressure get to me. I just try to play football and enjoy it. Hopefully that will bring the best out of me.
“I think this is really good for my development as a young payer, to be in these situations in a big tournament. This is my first Euros as an England player. It’s really good for me, good experience for me to take on in the future as well.
“I have settled in really well [with the Under-21s] and the boys are such nice lads. They have helped me settle in really well. It is now about playing good football and I want to do my best every game and every training session. I want to do my best at all times and help the team go far in the tournament.”
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