Southgate: Blues Stars Feared Loftus Cheek

Ruben Loftus-Cheek found it harder to break through at Chelsea because of established first-team players who felt threatened by his ability, according to England manager Gareth Southgate.

The 21-year-old midfielder, on loan at Crystal Palace, was named man of the match on his senior England debut in Friday's goalless draw with reigning world champions Germany at Wembley after producing an eye-catching and composed performance in central midfield.

Speaking after the match, Loftus-Cheek admitted that a lack of first-team opportunities at Chelsea in recent seasons has slowed his development, and Southgate suggested that the midfielder suffered as a result of competing with senior players afraid of losing their places.

"He has been able to battle through difficult spells at Chelsea, training with senior players who recognise his talent so get into him in training," Southgate said.

"Have they kept him in his place? Yes, I imagine they probably saw the threat.

"This season, going out and playing, has helped him. In the early season I saw him [for Palace] and he showed flashes of what we saw against Germany. I think he can affect big matches like he did."

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Loftus-Cheek has been widely regarded as one of English football's most promising young talents for many years, and Southgate is hoping that regular football at Palace will enable him to find his best position and fulfil his potential.

"I've known Ruben a long time -- I think the first time I saw him was in an under-16 international," the England manager added.

"I've had plenty of long conversations with him over the years about the areas he is really strong in and the areas he needs to develop.

"He can probably add a little bit more quality in the final third. He can probably go and score more goals given some of the attributes he has, but I was really pleased to see the effect he had and to get a performance like that.

"When you see his physical size, you think you'll see a certain type of player. Then I saw what you all saw against Germany -- one that is so technically gifted.

"He's at his best receiving the ball behind the opposition midfield, driving towards goal and sliding passes into people. He can take the ball under pressure too which is a great skill to have.

"He's an unassuming, quiet, polite kid. I hope he takes huge belief and confidence from that because he's shown what he is capable of."

Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.


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