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Crystal Palace made the first signing of the Frank de Boer era when they signed Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek on loan for a season (BBC Sport).
The 21-year old has been around the first-team for close to three years now but hasn’t been able to cement a regular place in the team, which has prompted him to consider a move away from the Stamford Bridge in order to get regular playing time under his belt.
The Eagles have had a timid start to the summer, after having spent over a month in search of a new manager. And having appointed the former Inter Milan and Ajax boss De Boer as the new head coach, it was high time that they go about strengthening their ranks. And signing Loftus-Cheek could be the start of an eventful transfer window at the Selhurst Park.
The 2016 Toulon tournament with England marked Loftus-Cheek’s breakthrough, where he was named the “Player of the Tournament”. Following that, he was expected to stake a claim for a regular spot in the Chelsea setup.
But with the new manager Antonio Conte preferring to stick to the partnership of Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante, and rotating them with Cesc Fabregas, the England youth international hardly got a look-in into the first team. As a result, the youngster managed to make just 11 appearances for the club last season, in all competitions, in which he recorded two assists.
Bestowed with the No.8 shirt at Crystal Palace, Loftus-Cheek could turn out be a start in the array of signings that will help De Boer implement his plans. A highly talented footballer, with great abilities with the ball at his feet, the 21-year old has the capability to run into spaces in the attacking third from deeper areas.
He is extremely athletic and technically very sound, which allows him to control proceedings playing as a No. 10 or in a withdrawn role as well. And given his height and physicality, he will also be able to use it to a good advantage to bully opponents.
The Englishman also has a creative edge to his game and can operate in between the lines to create chances for his teammates. His ability to retain possession and recycle it will help De Boer to a great extent in deploying his possession-based footballing philosophy. Strong, powerful and athletic, he will add a dimension mobility to the Palace midfield.
Should De Boer play his preferred 4-3-3 setup, he is likely to use Luka Milivojevic at the base of the midfield to operate as the anchorman and Yohan Cabaye as the creator-in-chief with a free roaming role, leaving Loftus-Cheek to take up the role of the box-to-box midfielder and he has all the attributes to excel in such a system.
The 21-year old has shown great potential till now, but now is the time for him to start fulfilling that potential and promise. And with regular playing time with the Eagles, Loftus-Cheek is very likely to show his true calibre. And if he manages to do that, De Boer and Palace will have gotten a star in the making at their hands, albeit temporarily.