Chelsea: Could This Player Be the Answer to Antonio Conte's Problems?

Antonio Conte
Antonio Conte at Allianz Stadion, Vienna, July 16. Ruben Loftus-Cheek has impressed Conte during Chelsea's pre-season tour. Matej Divizna/Getty

Antonio Conte's task at Chelsea is formidable. Alongside learning the English language, discovering his best team and negotiating transfers as he looks to return the club to the top of the Premier League, he also faces a challenge unachieved by his predecessors.

Not since 1992 has an academy graduate from the west London club established himself in the first-team at Stamford Bridge. Why? The bottomless transfer kitty and manager's need for immediate success working under a trigger-happy owner may be contributing factors.

But Ruben Loftus-Cheek could be the answer to Conte's problems. The 20-year-old has long been tipped as a future star for Chelsea and the successor for captain John Terry, who is the club's last academy product.

According to The Times, Conte has been impressed by the England Under-21 midfielder's performances during the club's pre-season, which could possibly lead to a first-team role next season.

A strong, talented young athlete with an imposing presence in the midfield, Loftus-Cheek has been a popular figure for the Stamford Bridge faithful. But since his debut in December 2014, he has made just six starts for the club.

Former manager Jose Mourinho gave Loftus-Cheek, who has been at Chelsea since the age of eight, a spell in the first-team but criticized his intensity, comparing him to senior players.

On the club's pre-season tour of Australia in 2015, Mourinho said: "When Chelsea had the ball he was playing very well but when Sydney had the ball I think he was more impressed by watching [John] Mikel Obi and [Nemanja] Matic work, instead of him working himself.

"So, with Ruben, it's one step back in terms of my relationship with him. If he doesn't know what it means to play for me and Chelsea, it's one step back."

But Loftus-Cheek is not playing for Mourinho any more. He has another chance with Conte, who would also see further benefits from promoting the youngster to the first-team.

Conte has been in search of a midfielder to add to his squad, with Roma's Radja Nainggolan believed to top his wanted list.

Chelsea: Could This Player Be the Answer to Antonio Conte's Problems? | Sports