Chelsea players and supporters hoping that the club recall Ruben Loftus-Cheek back to Stamford Bridge when the transfer window reopens for business in January are likely to be left disappointed after Roy Hodgson claimed that his temporary stint at Crystal Palace can only be terminated at the midway point if he is not playing regularly enough.
Loftus-Cheek became former Eagles boss Frank de Boer's first signing when he moved from west to south east London on a season-long loan deal in July, and he has since wasted little time in making a positive impression for the Premier League relegation candidates.
After showing glimpses of real potential in his first eight appearances at Palace, the 21-year-old joined fellow Chelsea academy graduate Tammy Abraham, Liverpool defender Joe Gomez and Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford – plus injury replacement Jack Cork and promoted Under-21 trio Dominic Solanke, Lewis Cook and Angus Gunn – as one of a handful of uncapped players recently called up to an injury-hit England squad.
Loftus-Cheek was named man of the match on his senior debut in the goalless draw with Germany at Wembley Stadium last week and started the clash against Brazil four days, later before back spasms forced him off after just 35 minutes.
Such eye-catching displays coupled with Chelsea's underwhelming start to their latest title defence, has led many to question how the Lewisham native was allowed to leave in the first place, with Blues winger Willian telling reporters in the mixed zone after that Brazil friendly that he did not know why a teammate he believes has a "great future" was currently at Palace.
"He has to come back," he joked.
Chelsea's decision to terminate former defender Nathan Ake's loan spell at Bournemouth months ahead of schedule last January proves they are willing to exercise break clauses if they feel it is in their best interests, although Palace boss Hodgson does not believe that is a possibility this time if Loftus-Cheek continues to receive frequent first-team opportunities.
"I'm not 100% certain what the clause is, I think there probably is one, but I believe it's a clause that will protect Chelsea that if we are never playing him they can take him back," he told reporters at a press conference held before Saturday's (18 November) visit of Everton to Selhurst Park, per football.london.
"I believe that if he is playing and is involved with us there is no break clause. So at the moment, the way he is playing, I think he can feel quite confident and we can feel quite confident he will stay with us."
It is a similar case for Chelsea with another prominent member of their loan army in Abraham, who has been mentioned as the ideal back-up for first-choice striker Alvaro Morata after scoring five goals during the early months of a productive spell at Swansea City.
Swans boss Paul Clement confirmed last month that there was no automatic recall inserted into that deal either, with Antonio Conte only able to get him back in the New Year if he does not reach a certain number of appearances between now and then.
Clement expressed confidence that regular starter Abraham was well on course to meet that requirement and would therefore stay in South Wales until the end of the season.