Ruben Loftus-Cheek says Thomas Tuchel was right to warn him that it’s not enough to be big, tall and good looking.
But the Chelsea midfielder feels he has finally won the trust of his manager after scoring his first Blues goal since 2019 in their FA Cup semi-final win over Crystal Palace. And the 26-year-old claims it’s time to start thinking about a pushing for an England recall – after spending months just hoping his body wouldn’t break down.
Asked about Loftus-Cheek ahead of the win at Wembley, Tuchel said: “Self-confidence doesn’t come from being big and tall and good looking.” And afterwards he claimed that Loftus-Cheek, who was out for over a year with an Achilles injury before struggling on loan at Fulham last season, “hides his talent” too much.
But after starting against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu and coming on to score at Wembley, Loftus-Cheek said: “He’s right! It’s hard when you haven’t played for a while. It’s hard to have the confidence to come back and just hit the ground running. It’s not easy, especially after that injury. My game was power and you lose power.
“Confidence comes from playing a lot, being exposed to it every week. It becomes second nature to do the things you do on the pitch. If you don’t have confidence you second-guess yourself and it becomes a lot of over-thinking on the pitch. That’s what I’ve had for a lot of my career.
“I haven’t been confident in myself because of my body and not playing a lot so it’s hard to then just come in and dazzle. That’s the fight I’ve had all my life. When I’ve had a consistent amount of games I’ve flourished. I feel like the manager trusts me which gives me a lot of confidence. Playing me against Real Madrid and bringing me on in the semi-final. That says a lot. I’m grateful to be in this position.”
It was a successful loan spell at Palace that helped Loftus-Cheek earn his first England call-up in November 2017, and he played at the World Cup in Russia before slipping off the radar. But with Gareth Southgate watching at Wembley and another finals just around the corner, he is already dreaming of wearing the shirt again for the first time in almost four years.
He said: “I’ve always believed I’m good enough to play for England. It’s just that I’ve had to not think about it for a while – purely because I didn’t feel ready. I didn’t feel confident in my body. Now I can say my body doesn’t go through my mind. I feel fit. I feel strong. I feel quick.
“And on the ball, I’ve never second-guessed that. I just want to kick on but I have to take it day by day. Okay, it’s in the back or your head but it’s not the main focus.”