It's fair to say that Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been on a journey to find his form and fitness. It has taken him on loan to Crystal Palace and Fulham and few would have thought last season, when he couldn't get into a Fulham side destined for relegation, that he would find his way back to Chelsea's first team.
Impediments to Progress:
It had been a long time since Loftus-Cheek had played meaningful minutes for Chelsea, picking up an Achilles injury in a post-season friendly back in 2019 which saw him sidelined for a year, but like many managers before him, Thomas Tuchel liked what he saw.
His height and strength make him a dominating presence in midfield, with the ability to carry the ball and drive his team forward. But he has struggled for match fitness and consistency in the last few years, which have reduced him to cameo appearances and made him a bit-part player for Chelsea. Until now.
As arguably Chelsea's most influential midfielder this season to date, the departure of Mateo Kovacic on the 24th minute mark came as a disappointment to Chelsea supporters at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. Loftus-Cheek, who completed over 90 minutes against Real Madrid midweek was ready and settled into the role seamlessly in an otherwise fairly uneventful first half.
Chelsea came to life in the second half, and Loftus-Cheek's first-time volley, scored in front of the Chelsea supporters and smashed into the goal's top corner was his first for the club in almost three years.
It's a Celebration:
Post-match Loftus Cheek said that he would normally not celebrate a goal against a former club, but that the occasion and passion led him to be unrestrained, jumping high into the air and embracing Antonio Rudiger.
Without a doubt, this was Loftus-Cheek's best moment as an individual in a Chelsea shirt. Preferred to come on for Kovacic to World Cup winner N'Golo Kante, he showed why Chelsea managers have kept him on the club's books when a route to the first-team has at times not looked clear.
Loftus-Cheek has watched on as younger academy graduates have progressed in similar roles, Mason Mount and now Conor Gallagher but in this campaign, Tuchel has played Loftus-Cheek in a deeper midfield role, and sometimes even on the right-wing. Former manager Maurizio Sarri saw Loftus-Cheek as a striker during his time at Chelsea.
Rumours circulated earlier in the season that Chelsea could listen to bids for Loftus-Cheek come August but it now seems more likely that either Jorginho or Kante will make an exit as the elders of the midfield players.
Once the new owners are in place, you can expect a busy summer at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea look to off-load many of their fringe players, with updated rules to the loan system soon to come into effect and a likely pursuit of Declan Rice to fund.
Loftus-Cheek made it into Gareth Southgate's World Cup squad in 2018 and will therefore have at least half a hope that his performances are still being monitored by the England manager, despite there being even stiffer competition for places in midfield this time around.
Southgate, like others has recognised that Loftus-Cheek offers something that we haven't seen in an English player in a long time. Physically, he stands head and shoulders above many of his peers and at 25 still has many years left, his tough times have provided experience and his endeavour to stay at Chelsea and to impress, shows strength of character and an admirable commitment to playing at the highest level.
Loftus-Cheek has found his way to the top at Chelsea, as was always expected of him. The struggle now is surely to stay there as the summer merry-go-round gets underway, but surely he now firmly has a stake dug deep in the ground of his boyhood club.