In our look at the latest Chelsea-related news stories from the media, England manager Gareth Southgate discusses Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s return to fitness and Phil Neville talks about the Chelsea player that Alex Ferguson ‘loved’.
These stories are samples pulled from external media sources. They do not represent the views or position of Chelsea Football Club.
Euro 2020 delay helps out Loftus-Cheek
England manager Gareth Southgate believes the decision to postpone the European Championships until next summer because of the coronavirus pandemic has worked to the benefit of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, the Evening Standard reports.
The Chelsea midfielder has not played a senior game for the Blues for 13 months since he suffered an Achilles injury in May last year.
His lack of playing time because of the injury would probably have seen him miss out on Euro 2020 but the year-long postponement has given the 24-year old more time to impress Southgate and stake his spot in the England squad for the competition.
‘On moments of fate things do turn,’ said Southgate.
‘I was talking with Ruben Loftus-Cheek a few days ago, he’s been out for a year. No way would he have got back for a tournament like that.
'Who knows what the next 12 months might look like for him and other young players who might not have played in the Premier League yet, who might emerge in certain positions to provide competition for places.’
Fergie loved Zola: Neville
Former Manchester United defender Phil Neville has spoken of the respect which he and his former manager had for Gianfranco Zola as a player, the Mirror reports.
Recalling the matches between the Blues and the Red Devils in the 1999/2000 season, Neville revealed Ferguson would often deploy special tactics to contain the threat of the Italian genius.
Although United had the Premier League title sewn up by the time the sides met at Old Trafford in April 2000, the Scot was still wary of Zola’s influence ahead of the game.
‘We’d won the league so we were really relaxed. The manager had made a few substitutions but the one thing about playing Chelsea, particularly at this point, was the unbelievable respect that Sir Alex Ferguson had for Gianfranco Zola – he loved him,’ said Neville.
‘In terms of the positions he took up he was similar to Eric Cantona [but also] in terms of the effect he had on English football. He always made it a tough game.’
While United won 3-2 that day, they were on the wrong end of a heavy beating earlier that season when they lost 5-0 at Stamford Bridge to the Zola-inspired Blues.
Often tasked with keeping a close eye on Zola in matches, Neville developed a strong respect for the Italian because of those experiences.
‘A couple of times [I man-marked him],’ Neville added. ‘In the two previous games I man-marked him. One in the FA Cup and also in the 5-0 loss up until Nicky Butt got sent off so I knew full well how good he was.
‘He had a small sense of gravity, he was two-footed but he was a gentleman as well. That’s the thing on the pitch he was just a real gentleman.’
Melchiot backs James for England right-back role
According to TalkSport, former Netherlands international defender Mario Melchiot feels Reece James is a better option for England at right-back than Trent Alexander-Arnold and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
While there are qualities to be admired in all three players, the Dutchman believes the Chelsea youngster offers the most complete package.
‘When you talk about Alexander-Arnold I’m excited about him and the way he plays,’ said the former Chelsea player.
‘He switches the play really comfortably. Wan-Bissaka is more defensive.
‘But Reece James has the ability, he has the strength, he has the speed to keep up with people, and he knows how to work it.
‘There are still a couple of things he needs to add to his game, but if he can become a regular with Chelsea he can compete with those two guys and why wouldn’t he want to do that?
‘That’s why we play football – to compete with the best.’