Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek is the only uncapped player in England’s squad for the European Under-21 Championship.
Loftus-Cheek’s preparations for the Czech Republic-hosted tournament could have gone better. Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was far less than impressed with the 19-year-old player’s role in the Blues’ 1-0 win over FC Sydney, keeping him on the pitch for just 27 minutes against the A-League runners-up.
“Loftus-Cheek was saying he had a pain in his back,” said Mourinho of the player whose been with Chelsea since the age of 8. “But what I was feeling was that he only had this pain when Sydney had the ball. When Chelsea had the ball I never saw a pain in his back.
He continued: “When Chelsea had the ball he was playing very, 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 himself. With Ruben it is one step back in my relations with him. If he doesn’t know what it is to play for me and Chelsea, it’s one step back.”
And on it went.
“He has to learn that when you are 19 you have to run three times the amount of the other more experienced players,” Mourinho continued. “You don’t have to play like a superstar with the ball at your feet because this is the not the under-18’s. He has to learn it is not the under-18 competition, which is too easy for him.
“I don’t accept that a player in midfield with Mikel and Matic doesn’t have intensity and is waiting for other people to recover the ball. Why should I accept it in an 18 or 19-year-old kid? He has to learn what it takes to play for Chelsea.”
Let’s hope his back doesn’t trouble him over the summer.
England Squad for the European Under-21 Championship:
Goalkeepers: M Bettinelli (Fulham), J Bond (Watford), J Butland (Stoke City). Defenders: C Chambers (Arsenal), L Garbutt (Everton), B Gibson (Middlesbrough), C Jenkinson (Arsenal), M Keane (Burnley), L Moore (Leicester City), J Stones (Everton), M Targett (Southampton). Midfielders: T Carroll (Tottenham Hotspur), N Chalobah (Chelsea), W Hughes (Derby County), J Forster-Caskey (Brighton & Hove Albion), J Lingard (Manchester United), R Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea), A Pritchard (Tottenham Hotspur), N Redmond (Norwich City), J Ward-Prowse (Southampton). Forwards: S Berahino (West Bromwich Albion), H Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), D Ings (Burnley).
June 11 Friendly v Belarus (Oakwell, Barnsley)
European Championship group matches
June 18 Portugal (Uherske Hradiste)
June 21 Sweden (Olomouc)
June 24 Italy (Olomouc)