This guy has played Europa League football for Premier League and Serie A giants.

We’re delighted to announce that Ruben Loftus-Cheek has transformed into Kaka

There’s a lot to be said for a change of scenery.

While too many people don’t have the option to up sticks and start a new life elsewhere, others have found waking up in a different city and embarking on a voyage of discovery is the answer to remove yourself from a listless rut.

Take Ruben Loftus-Cheek, for example. As he meandered through his twenties, Loftus-Cheek seemed stuck in a never-ending hell of injuries and substitute appearances as Chelsea slowly slipped from relevance.

The midfielder was part of England’s World Cup squad in 2018, playing an important cameo in the group stage victory over Tunisia, but now feels further from the national side than Phil Jones.

But the 28-year-old took the plunge last summer and signed for AC Milan after his contract at Stamford Bridge expired. While the Italian giants aren’t the Champions League-winning bemouths of the 2000s, the move represented a fresh start at one of Europe’s biggest clubs.

The Milanese lifestyle is an intoxicating one; good food, better wine and easy access to Lake Como and the Swiss Alps. We humbly suggest a study of the city’s water supply given the transformation of Loftus-Cheek into prime Kaka.

After scoring just three times between 2019 and 2023, the Love Island-esque dreamboat now has six in his last eight appearances and put Rennes to the sword in Milan’s Europa League play-off tie on Thursday.

His first goal was a cute header from Alessandro Florenzi’s cross, met with rapturous celebrations from the assembled Milanese inside the San Siro.

And his second header was even better, stooping lower than Rishi Sunak during Prime Minister’s Questions to leave Steve Mandanda clutching at thin air.

While Liverpool and West Ham Bayer Leverkusen remain favourites to win the Europa League, Loftus-Cheek is currently enjoying the kind of purple patch that could feasibly end with silverware.

The midfielder has netted seven times across all competitions, registering an additional two assists in Serie A, and Thursday night’s brace saw him become the first Milan player to score twice in a European knockout game since Kaka in 2007.

After the final whistle, former Manchester United and England midfielder Hargreaves not only described Loftus-Cheek as a ‘good fit’ at the San Siro, but wondered whether the player might even wish he had moved abroad sooner.

“Just looking at it, I can’t believe Ruben Loftus-Cheek is 28 already,” Hargreaves said on duty for TNT Sports. “I know he’s always been a star as a young man but he probably should have made this move (abroad) a little bit sooner.

“He’s such a talented guy. Probably played a little bit deeper at times. This is where he’s at his absolute best, arriving in the box with his size. He’s a good header of the ball. He’s got goals in him.

“It shows he’s in a really good place, in a team that plays to his strengths. And he’s scoring goals. That one (the second goal), he’s a little bit fortunate, it arrives to him.

“I think the confidence has grown. We’ve always known that he’s such a talented player, he’s obviously not a boy anymore, 28, he should be at his absolute best.”

Loftus-Cheek is one of several English players thriving abroad in 2024, from Jude Bellingham at Real Madrid to Fikayo Tomori at Milan and Borussia Dortmund’s Jamie Bynoe-Gittens.

Hargreaves, who spent the best part of his career at Bayern Munich, believes the former Chelsea midfielder is reaping the benefits of leaving his boyhood club and focusing on his football.

“I just think there’s less noise around you (abroad),” Hargreaves added. ‘You know when you’ve got your friends and family around you, everyone is on you. Sometimes you just want to focus on the football, but you can’t if you’re in your home town.

“There he’ll probably be able to focus on his craft, learn a new language, learn a new culture.

“I would advise it to every player – leave your comfort zone and go play somewhere else, just even for a few years. I just think you learn so much.”

Judging by Loftus-Cheek’s transformation from a frustrated bench warmer with a VIP pass to the medical room into the barnstorming box-to-box midfielder he was always capable of becoming, perhaps more footballers should embrace the chance to move abroad.

After all, there’s a lot to be said for a change of scenery.

By Michael Lee

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