Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek has intimated that Jose Mourinho was right to call him out following an under-par performance during the west London club's post-season trip to Australia, claiming he needs to raise his game if he's going to become a first-team regular at Stamford Bridge.
The Portuguese coach hit out at the England U21 international after coasting in a friendly match against Sydney FC last month, suggesting that his relationship with the Blues youngster had taken a step backwards as a result of his lacklustre display.
However, Loftus-Cheek has taken the stinging criticism on the chin and vowed to learn from that mistake by giving his all whenever called upon again, as he looks to prove to the Chelsea boss he's worth a place in his side next term and make the successful transition from the development squad to the senior team.
"I listened to what the manager said and I wasn't at the level I need to do better, and I need to do better if I want to play for Chelsea," he is quoted saying by the Daily Mirror. "For me that is a reminder that I have to work hard to get in the team.
"I just need to work hard and do my best. I will listen to him and learn from him every way I can. I really want to work hard now."
Asked how he plans to force his way into the Premier League champions' starting XI, the 19-year-old outlined his ambitions for the season ahead.
"I just need to have a good pre-season," he explained. "I want to work really hard, but Chelsea is always hard to break into but I believe in myself and if I work hard then hopefully things will go well.
"I don't really let the pressure get to me. I just try to play football and enjoy it. Hopefully that will bring the best out of me."
Loftus-Cheek is currently in the Czech Republic with Gareth Southgate's Young Lions squad taking part in the European U21 Championships, and played a crucial role in England's 1-0 victory over Sweden on Sunday night after coming off the bench with the game still goalless to help change the outcome of the match.
Southgate reckons Mourinho's words have certainly had an impact on the burgeoning young talent, who is growing in confidence day-by-day and offers something different to any other player in the tournament squad.
"We know the qualities that he has. We know it's early stages for him," reflected the former Middlesbrough boss. "[But] he hasn't looked out of place at all in terms of the training. He's different profile of player to any other midfield player we have here.
"It's very early stages for him learning the game at first team level, and with us, but I think with that innocence of youth he goes on and plays freedom that he did for 20 minutes against Sweden.
"He kept looking at the bench for reassurance that he was standing in the right place and that type of thing but he's a boy that we want to develop at the right speed but we think he's got a promising future."
Mourinho's public lambasting came as a result of Loftus-Cheek's lazy demeanour against Sydney FC as he appeared happy to let Nemanja Matic and John Obi Mikel do the hard work when Chelsea were without the ball.
It's an area of his game that the teenager needs to work on if he's going to earn a right to play regularly in The Special One's team.
"He was saying he had a pain in his back. But what I was feeling was that he only had this pain when Sydney had the ball," said the 52-year-old. "When Chelsea had the ball I never saw a pain in his back. 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 Mikel and 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."
Time will tell if Loftus-Cheek has heeded Mourinho's advice, but if he's going to become the first academy product since John Terry to firmly cement his place in the Chelsea team then he has no choice but to acknowledge the error of his ways and strive to right those wrongs when he returns for pre-season in just a couple of weeks time.
Chelsea fans: Do you think Ruben Loftus-Cheek has what it takes to cement his place in Jose Mourinho's first-team at Stamford Bridge? How many appearances will he make for the Blues in 2015/16? Have your say below…
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