Since Roman Abramovich’s takeover of Chelsea in 2003 the west London outfit have failed to produce a single homegrown player who has cemented his place in the club’s first team - but Ruben Loftus-Cheek is on the verge of changing all that.
The 18-year-old midfielder, who measures in at 6ft 4in, will make his Chelsea debut against Sporting Lisbon this evening - and, should he impress, will become a permanent member of the Blues’ first-team squad next month.
So, who is this bright young thing from Chelsea’s youth academy? While Blues’ fans who pay close attention to youth football at Stamford Bridge will know all about this talented teenager, here’s everything the rest of you need to know about the highly-rated starlet who has drawn comparisons to Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira.
Loftus-Cheek was born in Lewisham in January 1996 and spotted by Chelsea at the tender age of eight years old.
He has been with the Blues for 10 years now and was just 14 when he made his first appearance for the club’s Under-18 side - an indication that Chelsea had a very special talent in their ranks.
Article continues below
FA Youth Cup success
Since then he has established himself as a key member of Chelsea’s Under-21 side and captained the club to the FA Youth Cup earlier this year.
Loftus-Cheek made his first appearance for Chelsea’s senior side on the club’s US Tour in May 2013 - and impressed against Manchester City - but his competitive debut will come this evening against Sporting in the Champions League.
Matic and Vieira comparisons
The Mirror describe the young midfielder as “something of a Nemanja Matic clone” on account of his physicality and ability to dominate midfield - which, given the Serbian’s immense class, is high praise indeed - before paying him the highest possible compliment by dubbing him “more akin to Patrick Vieira”.
The same was said about Paul Pogba during his formative years with Manchester United, who allowed the Frenchman to slip through the net by failing to give him the opportunities that he so desired.
Mourinho, perhaps keen to avoid the same thing happening at Stamford Bridge, is ready to make the promising Loftus-Cheek a permanent resident of Chelsea’s new-look midfield.
Tonight is his audition - and the man himself can’t wait to take his opportunity with both hands.
“I’ve been at the club since I was eight so to be involved and training with the first team means a lot to me,” he commented. “John Terry is a great role model for all of the players at the Academy and we look up to the likes of him and Drogba.
“We've got some good talent coming through, it won't be easy to make the breakthrough but we have to be positive.
“All the young players are excited to be getting opportunities and we're confident in our ability to do well.”
Video: Loftus-Cheek’s run v Schalke
For a little taster of what to expect from Loftus-Cheek, take a look at the teenager’s stunning run against Schalke in the UEFA Youth League from September…