‘He is a top manager… it would be daft for me not to take it all in’: Ruben Loftus-Cheek says his relationship with Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri is strong despite lack of playing time
- Ruben Loftus-Cheek scored a hat-trick as Chelsea defeated BATE Borisov 3-1
- The England midfielder has only played 33 minutes in Premier League
- But he seized his chance to impress Maurizio Sarri in the UEFA Europa League
- Loftus-Cheek insists his relationship with Sarri is find despite lack of game time
Ruben Loftus-Cheek insists his relationship with Maurizio Sarri is strong despite only featuring for 33 minutes in the Premier League this season and subsequently losing his place in the England squad.
Loftus-Cheek made giant strides at Crystal Palace last season and subsequently became a key part of Gareth Southgate’s thinking as England reached the World Cup semi-finals in Russia.
However, Sarri is yet to embrace the Chelsea midfielder, who he insists must improve the ‘defensive phase’ of his game.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is all smiles after scoring the second of his three goals against BATE
The England midfielder seized his opportunity to impress Maurizio Sarri on Thursday night
Loftus-Cheek poses with the match ball after his hat-trick against BATE Borisov on Thursday
Loftus-Cheek minutes for Chelsea this season
August 11 vs Huddersfield Town (Premier League) – 22 minutes
September 9 vs Bournemouth (Premier League) – 11 minutes
October 4 vs MOL Vidi (Europa League) – 66 minutes
October 25 vs BATE Borisov (Europa League) – 90 minutes
Sarri also admitted after Loftus-Cheek’s hat-trick in the 3-1 victory over Bate Borisov that Loftus-Cheek faces an uphill battle to displace Mateo Kovacic or Ross Barkley – players the Italian describes as sharing ‘the same characteristics’ as Loftus-Cheek.
The 22-year-old was omitted from Southgate’s squad for recent matches against Croatia and Spain.
In scoring a hat-trick against Bate, Loftus-Cheek became only the sixth player in the club’s history – along with Didier Drogba, Gianluca Vialli, Tommy Baldwin, Peter Osgood and Terry Venables – to score three in a European game.
He is also the first Chelsea academy graduate to score a hat-trick in any competition since Clive Walker in 1982.
The English midfielder fired in his first to give Chelsea an early lead in the Europa League game
Loftus-Cheek got the final touch on the ball to double Chelsea’s advantage inside 10 minutes
Loftus-Cheek curls in his third goal of the evening to complete his hat-trick on Thursday
‘I think my last one was in the Under-13s!’ Loftus-Cheek said. ‘It might have been against Charlton. But this was different.
‘A European night under the lights, it’s a dream. There is still a long way to go. I want to keep being ambitious, keep improving and see how far I can go.’
Loftus-Cheek admits his mental strength has been tested in the early months of the season.
He said: ‘Yes, but I have never doubted my ability. It’s just hard sometimes to perform at your best when you are not playing regularly.
‘So it is important to train well, keep your good habits – eat well and sleep well – so that when games like this come along you can be as close to your best physical shape as possible.
‘I will keep trying to do that and it’s all I can do right now.’
Maurizio Sarri issues instructions to Loftus-Cheek during Thursday night’s home win
Premier League unless stated
Sunday Burnley (A)
October 31 Derby County (H)
EFL Cup fourth round
November 4 Crystal Palace (H)
November 8 BATE Borisov (A)
Europa League group stage
November 11 Everton (H)
November 24 Tottenham Hotspur (A)
Loftus-Cheek, who has not started a Premier League game for Chelsea since April 2016, insists the relationship with Sarri remains positive.
‘He is asking me to improve defensively and positionally,’ the 22-year-old added. ‘We are working on it every day in training.
‘He is so demanding on shape, but also wants you to play freely as well, which I why we can play such free flowing football. It is really good work.
‘For a manager who has been in the game for a long time, it would be daft for me not to take in what he is telling me. He is a top manager. For me to learn from him is great for my development. I will keep on doing that.
‘I will keep on listening and learning whenever I’m on the pitch or in training. As a player-manager relationship it works – we both have respect for each other. This is a good relationship.’
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