James Rodriguez was a prospect before his 2014 World Cup made him a house hold name. Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek could follow suit in 2018.
James Rodriguez was highly regarded during his Porto days. That earned him a big money move to newly free spending Monaco. But going into the 2014 World Cup, few would have expected the performances he gave.
Rodriguez was electric in the tournament. He took home the Golden Boot with six goals despite Colombia going out in the quarterfinals. He made several teams of the tournament. That was flipped into a massive Real Madrid move.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek has all the talent to follow Rodriguez’s example. He has had a great season at Crystal Palace and England have a great chance of making a run in the tournament. Loftus-Cheek fills a role the English need that few other players are capable of. If he can kick off well and solidify a starting role, he can leave the tournament with as many plaudits as Rodriguez.
But rather than flipping a great World Cup into a big money transfer, Loftus-Cheek can use it to finally break through at Chelsea. The Blues are set to use at least three central midfielders next season regardless of who is manager. Loftus-Cheek offers something the other Chelsea midfielders do not. A good World Cup could see him break through into the starting XI.
But to truly match Rodriguez and fill a need for Chelsea, Loftus-Cheek will have to prove his goal scoring ability. Chelsea has midfielders who can tackle, press, and pass. But they lack a goal scoring threat. Historically, Loftus-Cheek has not shown a great ability in that department. But if that can change over the course of a few matches this summer, he will find himself where he wants to be.
The first step will be to lock down his starting spot for England. He came on late against Nigeria and performed well but more is needed. England only have one more match before the World Cup against Costa Rica. Loftus-Cheek could and should start in the match if only to see what he has to offer over a full 90.
If he does well against Costa Rica, chances are high that he will be able to start against Tunisia in the opening match of England’s World Cup campaign. So long as England win, Loftus-Cheek can earn a start against Panama. Play well up to that point and his starting status will be locked down for the remainder of England’s tournament.
Then, whoever is Chelsea manager, will have to give the young Englishman a chance at Chelsea next season. No more loans, no more false starts. An actual chance to break through at the club that spent years training him and have believed in him.
But at the end of the day, it will all come down to Loftus-Cheek himself. He supposedly trains incredibly well. He must flip that into playing well as soon as possible. It is the only way he can copy Rodriguez’s tournament and rise from 2014.