The prospects of youth academy players have long been scrutinised at Chelsea.
As of the start of last season, the club had 38 players on loan across the globe and it was hard to make an argument that any of them would ultimately force their way into the London club’s first string side. Indeed, the prospects of one of their more promising loanees, Andreas Christensen, was dealt a blow just last week.
The defender has progressed hugely during his two-year stint at Borussia Mönchengladbach but still the club refuse to call on his services. Conte felt more comfortable spending £34 million on Antonio Rudiger rather than recalling the 21-year-old and it would appear that an even more renowned youth team product is in line for similar treatment.
As officially announced by Chelsea, Ruben Loftus-Cheek will join Crystal Palace on loan next season. The midfielder boasts Champions League experience but has failed to impress Conte sufficiently to merit remaining at the club next season.
In truth, the arrival of Conte has been a mixed bag for the 21-year-old. While it was his arrival that spearheaded the club’s push to Premier League glory, Loftus-Cheek himself remained on the periphery for much of the season. Preferred by Jose Mourinho in a holding midfield position, Conte has seen fit to deploy Loftus-Cheek in more of a number 10 role, but given the embarrassment of riches the club enjoys in that position, it’s hardly surprising that he has struggled to make a lasting impression.
In sending him out on loan Chelsea are clearly of the opinion that Loftus-Cheek is capable of making an impression in future and are hopeful that he will see more game time at Selhurst Park. Palace, who recently appointed Frank de Boer as their new head coach, appear to be a wise choice in this regard.
The former England Under-21 star will likely vie for a starting birth with Jason Puncheon next season whose recent form for the Eagles has been less than stellar. It is also common for deals of this nature to include a stipulation as to the amount of game time the player in question should get although no specifics of this nature have been released.
More encouraging for Chelsea fans will be that the move likely paves the way for the imminent arrival of Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco, who is due to undergo a medical on Friday. Chelsea fans were understandably bitter at losing out on Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United, but the club appear to be quickly making up for that disappointment.
Having taken Willy Caballero, Antonio Rudiger and the lesser known Ethan Ampadu on board, the Blues appear primed for next season but are not intent on resting on their laurels. Danilo, Bakayoko and perhaps even Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are also thought to be on their way to London, which would complete a seismic summer for the Pensioners.
Colm Egan, Pundit Arena