It may be a short move geographically from west to south London for Palace’s newest recruit Ruben Loftus-Cheek, but it is a big one for the midfielder at it represents the first transfer of his career having spent 13-years with Chelsea.
However, despite only being 21 he has been touted as one of English football’s hottest prospects for a fair few years now. A half-brother of former Palace Player of the Year Leon Cort, Loftus-Cheek started with the Blues academy aged eight and progressed through the ranks to get his chance with their academy side, and soon the silverware began pouring in.
A substitute appearance aged just 16 came in the 2012 FA Youth Cup final triumph, and after establishing himself at under-18 level and then Chelsea’s development side, he would captain the former to another Youth Cup triumph two years later in the same season he held down a regular spot as the Blues lifted the U21 Premier League title.
The 2014/15 season would prove to be a watershed moment for Loftus-Cheek as he began to edge his way into the first-team picture at Stamford Bridge. Having helped his team win the UEFA Youth League, he made his first-team bow as a substitute in a UEFA Champions League game against Sporting Lisbon in December. A month later would bring a first taste of life in the Premier League, and he would end the campaign with a winner’s medal, despite only playing three games after Jose Mourinho requested one for him.
Loftus-Cheek saw his career kick-on the following campaign and would step up to the England under-21 side, having represented the Three Lions at under-16, under-17 and under-19 levels. As well as success on the international stage, he would feature in over a third of Chelsea’s Premier League matches during the 2015/16 season, scoring his first goal in an FA Cup tie against Scunthorpe United.
Impressing in a deep-lying playmaker role in the Blues’ midfield, the Lewisham-born man was rewarded with a five-year contract and headed to the Toulon Tournament with the England under-21s where his star shone again, winning the Player of the Tournament as Gareth Southgate’s side lifted the trophy, with Loftus-Cheek scoring the winner in the final against France.
The arrival of Antonio Conte saw a switch in position for the youngster who was pushed into a striker role, and he would turn out 11 times as he picked up a second Premier League winner’s medal by featuring six times in the top-flight, taking his career total to 32 games.
He will look to add to that number with the Eagles next term, as he sets his sights on gaining much more first-team experience and continuing his blossoming reputation in the game.