Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has thrown a cat among the post-season friendly pigeons by launching a sizeable volley of real talk in the direction of Blues academy product Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
The midfielder was unceremoniously hooked after a mere 27 minutes of the club’s exhibition against Sydney FC, with Mourinho distinctly unflattering in his assessment of the youngster’s work:
“Ruben 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 he was playing very well, but when Sydney had the ball I think he was more impressed by watching [John] Mikel Obi and [Nemanja] Matic work, instead of him working himself. So, with Ruben, it’s one step back in terms of my relationship with him. If he doesn’t know what it means to play for me and Chelsea, it’s one step back.
“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. You don’t have to play like a superstar with the ball at your feet because this is not the Under-18s.
“That competition is too easy for him. He’s too good for it, but 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.”
Loftus-Cheek is a prized product of a Stamford Bridge youth setup which has seldom borne first team fruit in recent years and remains a 3/5 favourite to start over 6.5 league games for the club in 2015/16.
However, the 6/5 about him making the XI on less than six occasions is worthy of plenty of airtime…and not just because he will likely have to displace Nemanja Matic in order to do so.
Players at the club to have previously fallen short of Mourinho’s exacting demands when it comes to defensive work-rate and pressing have tended to depart quickly.
The Portuguese risked the incredulity of the faithful in sending two-time player of the year Juan Mata to Coventry (later Manchester United), in his first season back in West London.
Meanwhile, the same Kevin de Bruyne who tore up the Bundesliga with a monstrous 13 goals and 19 assists last term similarly failed to impress with his application, Mourinho telling the press:
‘With Kevin, I didn’t like the match he played against Swindon, and I didn’t like the way he was training.’
The Belgian was joined at Wolfsburg this season by another Chelsea attacker who failed to convince in his all round game, despite regularly scoring when called upon – World Cup winner Andre Schurrle.
For Loftus-Cheek the message is clear, knuckle down or ship out.