Loftus-Cheek lined up for first-team role

Ruben Loftus-Cheek will make the breakthrough at Stamford Bridge next season and become a key member of Chelsea’s squad, Jose Mourinho has predicted.

The 19-year-midfielder made his debut as a late substitute in the Champions League against Sporting Lisbon in December, with his first Premier League appearance coming in the 1-1 draw against Manchester City the following month.

“Next season I expect him not just to play a few times but to be a player to play in the team and compete directly for a position,” Blues boss Mourinho said.

Jose Mourinho of Chelsea

“If we were fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh he would be playing.”

Mourinho on Loftus-Cheek

“I believe a lot in Ruben and the squad will be made in a way where Ruben is not a number, where he is a player to compete for a position.”

Mourinho has refused to discuss speculation linking the Premier League leaders with a move for Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba.

But the Portuguese has insisted Loftus-Cheek represents the future of the club, even if the teenager’s chances have been limited this season.

“I don’t think for now it is the moment [to play him],” said Mourinho “We are protecting him.

“If we were fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh he would be playing for sure. But we think it is the right thing to go with more experience.”

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