Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has admitted that it may be best for midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek to leave on loan for the remainder of the season.
The 24-year-old missed no less than 13 months of action between May 2019 and June 2020 as a combination of a serious Achilles injury and the COVID-19 shutdown kept him on the sidelines, but despite featuring regularly after the Premier League resumed last season, minutes have been hard to come by this time around.
Loftus-Cheek started the win over Brighton but was hauled off at the hour mark after a bitterly disappointing performance, and he is yet to make a matchday squad since, with Lampard struggling to find a spot in his team for the Englishman.
Lampard has not lost faith in Loftus-Cheek, who he believes can still become a major part of Chelsea's future, but he did confess in a press conference that the midfielder needs regular minutes if he is to get up to speed following such a lengthy absence.
“I’m very open with Ruben, we’ve had a couple of conversations in the past week,” Lampard said (via The Telegraph). “Ruben’s fit as a fiddle, he can play week in week out if he needs to, coming off the back of a lot of work – he would have been playing games and fitter earlier, if it wasn’t for lockdown.
“There’s a possibility that Ruben may go out to play games, because I think that would be great for him. We hold him in very high regard here, I certainly do, and that could be a good option for him. If that’s not the right option, he’ll be competitive in this squad as well, because of the quality that he has, and, hopefully, be a big plus for us. So I’m relaxed about it, but I want to find the best path for Ruben and for us. We’ll see, with the week we’ve got ahead of us.”
Loftus-Cheek has made it clear that he needs game time this season, and Lampard confessed that his chances of regular minutes this season are slim as there is real competition for places at Stamford Bridge these days.
“Ruben wants to play and the reality is that I have a lot of competition in those areas,” the boss added. “Ruben is versatile, he can play different roles in the midfield and sometimes off the side. I was really looking forward to working with him because I know what he can do, and he gives us something slightly different in terms of his physicality, how he plays, how he receives the ball.
"But I think there is also a priority for everyone that Ruben plays games. There’s a delicate balance that we’re trying to get right over the next week, and we’ll do what feels right.
“Without a doubt [Loftus-Cheek has a future at Chelsea]. He’s had a difficult time, the injury was a bad one, he hasn’t played as many minutes at this club as he would like to have done, for different reasons, but just before this injury he was playing really well, contributing, and I was looking forward to working with him. So we’ll make that decision as to what’s best for him and us.”