MAURIZIO SARRI wants to take his time before making a decision on Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s future.

The midfielder returns to Chelsea hungry for regular first-team football following a productive loan spell with fellow Premier League side Crystal Palace last season.

Only injury prevented him from adding to his 24 Premier League appearances with Loftus-Cheek a regular as the Eagles overcame a seven-game losing streak to start off the campaign to comfortably avoid relegation.

Loftus-Cheek’s form saw him called up to the World Cup with England where he looked far from out of place, making four appearances for Gareth Southgate’s side as they reached the semi-finals.

Despite the 22-year-old’s development, his long-term future at Stamford Bridge came into question earlier this summer with many promising prospects having been denied the opportunity to feature consistently for the club’s senior side.

Chelsea want to keep Loftus-Cheek but the player wants to feature regularly immediately, with minutes potentially limited under Sarri given the options available to him in midfield.

The early closure of the Premier League transfer window, which shuts next Thursday, means a permanent move away is impossible after that date while he would only be able to go on a loan move overseas and not to another English club.

Yet Sarri insists he is keen to bide his time when it comes to making a decision on whether Loftus-Cheek will play for him in 2018-19 despite the clear competition for places in the centre of the park at Chelsea.

“Loftus I have seen him just for three or four trainings so I want to wait to judge,” Sarri said.

That’s with £57million summer signing Jorginho, Cesc Fabregas, N’Golo Kante, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Ross Barkley and Danny Drinkwater among the other central midfielders at the club – although the latter could leave before the August 9 deadline.

Loftus-Cheek is without a Premier League start for Chelsea since April 2016. He made more top-flight appearances in one season at Palace than his previous three with the Blues.

And while Palace have signed two midfielders this week in Cheikhou Kouyate and Max Meyer, Roy Hodgson has revealed he would welcome Loftus-Cheek back to Selhurst Park with open arms even only on a temporary basis once again.

He told talkSPORT: “We would love to have him back, there’s no question of that, but that is totally and utterly in Chelsea’s hands.

“I have no ideas what their plans for Ruben are, they haven’t announced that to us and I haven’t seen anything written publicly about that.

“He knows how much we appreciate him and how pleased we were with him, and the fans too of course took to him.

“If he was available on loan tomorrow, I am pretty sure we would be knocking on their door to get him.”

European deadline days
August 9

England [Premier League and Football League]

August 31 [Selected leagues]

Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Northern Ireland, Poland, Russia, Scotland, Serbia, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, Wales

September 1

Armenia, Burkina Faso

September 3

Romania

September 5

Mexico

September 6

Bulgaria, Slovakia

September 8

Czech Republic

September 21

Portugal

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