Ruben Loftus-Cheek must make proper use of this summer
It is a testament to Ruben Loftus-Cheek's performance that he was picked ahead of Adam Lallana and Jack Wilshere in England's World Cup squad. The psychically imposing youngster is highly regarded by Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate. After working together in the Under-21s, the player, who earned rave reviews for his mature displays at Crystal Palace this season, must now repay the manager's faith.
Loftus-Cheek is unlike the other English midfielders. He offers physicality and raw strength that is sure to frustrate opponents at the World Cup.
Tiemoue Bakayoko's at Chelsea meant Loftus-Cheek was free to depart on loan. The Englishman joined Palace to aid his development and gain regular playing time. Last season under Antonio Conte, he played as a centre-forward in a 4-2-4 formation during the early part of the campaign. However, a shift to 3-4-3 left him unable to leave his mark as he's not a natural central midfielder or winger.
Having been named in Southgate's 23-man squad, Loftus-Cheek has a realistic chance to be a regular starter for England. He faces a straight fight with Tottenham Hotspur's Dele Alli in Russia.
Loftus-Cheek needs a very good individual World Cup. It would do two things. Firstly, it would increase his reputation and transfer value. It would also enable him to stake a claim in Chelsea's midfield next season.
There are high hopes for Loftus-Cheek at Chelsea. He's the brightest academy prospect since John Terry. The 22-year-old, who was once described as the club's future, could still forge a career at Stamford Bridge. Conte once expressed his desire to play the youngster more often.
Although Loftus-Cheek is a supremely talented player, his lack of versatility in midfield detracts from his ability. He doesn't possess the positional discipline to play as a defensive midfielder, the position Jose Mourinho tried to use him in while at Chelsea.
England have a squad that is hungry to make an impact at a major tournament. Players such as Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane among others are primed to have a brilliant World Cup this summer. Loftus-Cheek must emulate his most talented teammates. At 22, he is at an age where he should be establishing himself as a truly elite player. He can look to the example of Colombia's James Rodriguez, who set the world alight with his brilliant display at the last edition in Brazil.
There are rumors Crystal Palace want to sign Loftus-Cheek on a permanent deal in this transfer window. The arrival of a new Chelsea coach, though, could present him with a good opportunity to claim a place at his parent club. The fact that Bakayoko has failed to set the Premier League alight with his performance this season means a good World Cup, Loftus-Cheek will go back to Stamford Bridge with an enhanced reputation.
The only way is up for Loftus-Cheek right now. The World Cup is the perfect springboard.