Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has revealed exactly what his final words of wisdom were to Ruben Loftus-Cheek before handing the youngster his first-team debut, with a bottle of red wine in the conversation.
Loftus-Cheek finally made his senior Chelsea bow against Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League last night, thrown on by Mourinho for the final eight minutes of a 3-1 victory which underlined just how strong the Blues have been in the group stages this year.
The 18-year-old has spent the best part of a decade progressing through Chelsea's academy system and could be the first homegrown star to truly break through if he continued to develop, but he'll need to find a good tipple for Mourinho before he gets another chance to shine at the highest level.
Much expected of the midfield starlet
Mourinho was asked about the young midfielder powerhouse in his post-match press conference, specifically what he said to the starlet has he got ready for a long-awaited chance in the first team.
His response was something of a surprise, telling the Independent: "I gave you this, you have to give me a nice bottle of red wine’.” The reply from Loftus-Cheek was instant, a quick: “No problem.”
Mourinho praises youngster with big personality
A criticism often levelled at Mourinho and more specifically Chelsea is that there's no path for academy graduates to have a genuine chance of making the first-team squad, with Josh McEachran perhaps the most relevant recent example of a much-lauded prospect stagnating somewhat.
Chelsea chiefs are desperate to prove their investment in youth will pay off in the long-run and Loftus-Cheek is their next big hope, in more ways than one.
Mourinho was full of compliments for the teenager's attitude after featuring against Sporting, praising his determination to make an impact on the game in the short time allowed.
He said: "He showed a very good personality, very positive, not afraid of playing, not afraid to have the ball. He wanted to participate.
"Obviously there were low levels of responsibility. We are qualified, the result is 3-1 and the game is over, but he showed immediately the quality he has. Everyone in the stadium had the feeling we have a kid with talent. So keep going, keep working hard, and hopefully people around him don't disturb the work we are doing with him."
Games continue to come thick and fast
With the Blues still fighting for trophies on four fronts there's every chance Loftus-Cheek will feature again this season, most likely in domestic cup competitions.
Nemanja Matic, Jon Obi Mikel and co. provide serious competition for anytime even in the matchday squad let alone on the pitch, but Chelsea clearly believe Loftus-Cheek has the talent to progress if his current trajectory continues over the next few years.
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