In-form Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek said his physical condition has never been better as he revealed he recently spoke with tennis star Andy Murray about overcoming injury setbacks.
Loftus-Cheek has started five of the Blues’ last six games under Graham Potter and retains hope of forcing his way into England’s World Cup squad.
The 26-year-old, who is preparing to face RB Salzburg in the Champions League on Tuesday evening, has endured a frustrating, stop-start career at Stamford Bridge amid a number of fitness issues.
But he is once again threatening to finally fulfil the potential which saw him earn a place at the 2018 World Cup, having been relatively injury-free since returning from a ruptured Achilles tendon in 2020.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Murray has also been dogged by injury problems in his illustrious career and swapped tales with Loftus-Cheek during last month’s Laver Cup.
“It was good to see how he sees himself and his career and the injuries that hindered him through it,” Loftus-Cheek, who also watched Murray at Surbiton in May, told a press conference ahead of the Blues’ European game in Austria.
“Obviously he had a big one with the hip that he still struggles with a bit. It was a good chat to compare our careers really and injuries have been a big part.
“But now I feel good. I feel physically strong and fit and being injury-free for the last couple of years has been a big part of that.
“I’ve never had that in my career, so that’s a big positive for me and that’s why I’m in-form right now. I am feeling the strongest, fittest and quickest I’ve been.”
Loftus-Cheek won 10 England caps across 2017 and 2018, four of which came as Gareth Southgate’s side reached the World Cup semi-finals in Russia.
He returned from that tournament expecting his career to take off but is now thankful just to be playing regularly as he attempts to force a spot on the plane to Qatar.
“It would be amazing, it would mean a lot,” he said of a potential Three Lions recall.
“Going to the 2018 World Cup, you see your trajectory go like that (gesturing upwards) and obviously being at the next World Cup if everything goes well. But a lot has happened in between that time.
“I’m just happy and grateful I’m fit and healthy and playing football consistently.
“That’s all I can ask for and if I go to the World Cup off the back of what I’m doing now, it would mean the world, but that’s not at the forefront of my mind at the moment.
“We’ve got some big games coming up at the club that need our full focus and it would be selfish for me to be thinking about my personal aspirations, rather than the club’s.”
Chelsea will qualify for the Champions League knockout stages with victory over Salzburg, while a draw combined with AC Milan defeating Dinamo Zagreb in the other Group E tie would also be sufficient.
Although securing early progression would remove pressure from next week’s home clash with Dinamo amid a congested fixture list before the World Cup, head coach Potter is not looking too far ahead.
“It would be nice to win, absolutely, and there are consequences to winning,” he said.
“But our thoughts are just try to win the match, perform as well as we can.
“We understand how tough it’s going to be but we have to take the challenge and put ourselves in a good position.
“We’re not finished, we haven’t got enough points, we need to carry on, so that’s going to be the test. We’re looking forward to it.”
Injured quartet Reece James, Wesley Fofana, Kalidou Koulibaly and N’Golo Kante remain unavailable and did not travel.
According to Potter, Koulibaly’s issue is “not too serious”.