In the wake of Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Sydney FC in their post-season tour of Australia, Jose Mourinho blasted 19-year-old Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s attitude and performance in the friendly match.
Loftus-Cheek is the rising star of the West London club’s youth academy and has recently been called up to England’s squad for the European Under-21 Championship finals this summer.
Yet Mourinho decided to haul him off after just 28 minutes, replacing him with Diego Costa. The manager said, “Loftus-Cheek was saying he had a pain in his back. But what I was feeling was that he only had this pain when Sydney had the ball. When Chelsea had the ball, I never saw a pain in his back”.
Mourinho said that this signifies a real step back in his relationship with his young midfielder, having brought him into the squad proper for the closing stage of the season. He particularly impressed during the 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. The youngster made 27 passes during the match and didn’t give the ball away once.
Mourinho feels Loftus-Cheek has a lot to learn, saying, “When Chelsea had the ball he was playing very, very well. But when Sydney had the ball, I think he was more impressed by watching John Obi Mikel and Nemanja Matic work, instead of himself…Loftus-Cheek has to learn that when you are 19 years old, you have to run three times the amount of the other more experienced players.
The Special One didn’t pull any punches when bringing his protégé down to earth, making it clear that he was happy with the performance of his senior players – just not his junior one. He said, “I was happy with the performance of my senior players because it has been a long season, in fact, a very long season…But I don’t accept that a player playing in midfield with Mikel and Matic doesn’t have intensity and is waiting for other people to recover the ball. Why should I accept it in an 18 or 19-year-old kid? He has to learn what it takes to play for Chelsea”.
Mourinho has a reputation for choosing a player to be hard on so the rest of his squad know they need to up their game. At Real Madrid he branded Karim Benzema “lazy”, for example. So whether or not this is an attempt to keep his younger players in check remains to be seen.
It is likely that a host of clubs would line-up to take Loftus-Cheek away from Stamford Bridge if Mourinho decided that his attitude isn’t good enough for Chelsea, though given many people are tipping the England youngster to break into the Premier League champion’s first team next season, it seems unlikely that the Portuguese manager would allow him to leave.
Instead, it is probably hoped that his public blasting of the young player will encourage both him and Chelsea’s other youngsters – such as Kurt Zouma – to double their efforts if they hope to make a permanent breakthrough into the Chelsea first-team.