Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been linked with a transfer to Roma where he would reunite with former boss Jose Mourinho, but the pair endured an up-and-down relationship at Chelsea
Just as Ruben Loftus-Cheek was beginning to shine once more at Chelsea, the 25-year-old has been offered a route out of Stamford Bridge by a familiar face.
Jose Mourinho is reportedly keen on bringing the Blues academy graduate to Roma in order to bolster his midfield options, having been the man to hand Loftus-Cheek his senior debut whilst they were together in west London seven years ago.
But the Special One’s relationship with the former England international has not always been so special, hinting at why Mourinho is hoping ex-Chelsea team-mate Tammy Abraham can help convince him over a move to the Italian capital.
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Il Romanista have outlined the Portuguese manager’s desire for a new midfielder in January, with the Giallorossi said to be willing to match Loftus-Cheek’s lucrative Chelsea wages.
The 6ft 3in playmaker has struggled to establish himself at Stamford Bridge since emerging in 2014 and instead shone out on loan with Crystal Palace and Fulham.
But he has recently benefited from an injury crisis within Thomas Tuchel’s squad, playing 90 minutes in each of the Blues’ last four Premier League games.
However, it is claimed that Mourinho – under pressure at the Stadio Olimpico after a mixed start to life in charge – knows him well and has targeted a reunion in Rome, although the two’s relationship has continually come across as a complicated one.
Loftus-Cheek’s first notable bit of friction with his former boss came after a 2015 pre-season friendly, when Mourinho scathingly criticised the youngster and claimed he had ‘taken a step back with him’.
“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,” the 58-year-old stated after the recently-crowned Premier League champions beat Sydney 1-0.
“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] Obi Mikel 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.”
He added: “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.”
Two months later and Mourinho had changed his tune, heaping praise on the Lewisham-born starlet after Chelsea’s 4-0 victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv.
“I think he played very well which is very good for us,” he explained. “I think he is in condition to compete with the others for positions and minutes but he is having minutes.
“He played already in the Premier League this season, now in the Champions League. He’s potentially a very good player.”
In 2017 – well after Mourinho was sacked by the Blues – Loftus-Cheek’s father, Trevor, took aim at the two-time Champions League-winning manager, declaring that Mourinho ‘held his son back’.
“He should have been playing,” he told the Daily Mail. “Everyone behind the scenes was asking: ‘why isn’t he playing?’
“If Ruben was playing for Mauricio Pochettino, he’d have 70, 80, 90 first team appearances by now.”
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And a year later, Mourinho upped the ante with a thinly-veiled dig while discussing Marcus Rashford’s perceived lack of game-time at Manchester United.
“The people who are speaking about these minutes are a bit confused,” the current Roma boss said.
“Rashford is not Dominic Solanke, he’s not Ruben Loftus-Cheek, he’s not Dominic Calvert-Lewin.”
“He’s Manchester United player Marcus Rashford with an incredible number of minutes played at the highest level.”
So, with a potential reunion in Serie A on the cards, the pair may well have to reconcile their differences for the benefit of both of their careers.