By 90Min
September 27, 2018

Chelsea fans have long been professing the talents of Mason Mount. They've all heard the cursory 'English Messi' connotations - which has morphed to the 'Next Frank Lampard' in recent times. They've seen the Youth Team highlight reels, then the even more impressive Vitesse Arnhem ones, and momentarily considered those associations, before rightfully dismissing them - not yet, he's not. He can't be. 

But now they've had a chance to see him on English soil, slotting into the Championship with aplomb, and taking a midweek Cup trip to Old Trafford in his stride. This confidence has fostered belief that he could actually be the chosen one. The prospect who can finally break the Stamford Bridge academy hoodoo, and cement himself in the Chelsea first team for years to come. 

So can he? Is he the chosen one? IS HE?!?! 

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Well, yes. Yes he is. And here's why:

There's been a depressingly varied slate of reasons as to why, despite enormous funding and prestigious talent, no Chelsea academy player has become a first team regular since John Terry. Chief among them has been a relentless focus on short term investment and results, which leads to increased managerial pressure, which in turn leads to a glaring lack of opportunities for unproven players. 

On paper, it's hard to see what's now changed, because not much has. Even Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who seemingly did everything right in impressing on loan in the Premier League, earning a place in the England squad and going to the World Cup, has fallen victim to the cycle. It's hard to observe such a situation and then claim to feel optimistic about another youngster, but Mount's situation is different.

He has always had the talent - that's a given at this level - but what's continuously impressed his coaches is his hunger. It's certainly struck a chord with his new boss at Derby County. 

Speaking to the Derby Telegraph about a potential England call up after a standout performance against Blackburn, Frank Lampard declared: “Mason Mount can do anything he wants. He is that good. 

"That's not to say he will go in and be an England starter next game, that's Gareth Southgate's choice, but at whatever level you put him in, because of his quality, work ethic and mentality – he wants to get better and better – he will do anything he wants to."

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This theme of hard workd has been consistent throughout his tenure, previously noting to Sky Sports: "technically he’s brilliant, but also his work-rate shouldn’t go unnoticed."

These could be besmirched as a couple of throwaway soundbites, until you consider the man delivering them. Indeed, something else that can't have gone unnoticed to Frank, is the similarity between those words and the ones Harry Redknapp uttered way back when Chelsea's record goalscorer was an under pressure youngster at West Ham. 

As Redknapp portended to on that day, few English players have profited more from an unbending work ethic and desire to succeed than 'Fat Frank'. By proxy, few professionals have more expertise in this fairly intangible realm of sport than him. 

Obviously, this is why the Chelsea man chose the Rams over Champions League football at PSV Eindhoven, Ajax or Feyenoord - all of whom coveted him after he won Vitesse's Player of the Season award. It's hard to underplay the value of someone like Lampard for a player's mentality at such a formative age. 

Because, as Frank will tell you, that's the difference at the top level of sport. Everyone has talent, and everyone thinks they have desire - until they don't. That's not just footballing cliche. In the annals of La Masia, Barcelona's feted academy, they attribute mental resilience as the most important quality any of their youngsters can have. 

Clearly, Lampard giving Mount daily masterclasses on every facet of the game he excelled at is invaluable, and will no doubt improve his game, but it's the mentality that Chelsea will be monitoring. And in west London, no one's opinion on the subject will hold more sway than Mr Lampard. 

That's why those words were so powerful. As good as his pass against Manchester United was, as cute as his feigns and flicks have been and as composed as his finish in the penalty shootout was, they will pale in comparison to Super Frank's attitudinal seal of approval. To be fair, Maurizio Sarri will probably also be taking special notice of Mount's intelligent and diligent pressing.

The elephant in the room in all of this discussion is game time. Having espoused on the merits of attitude and work ethic, it's true that you can have all the will in the world and it won't be evident unless you're able to show it. Quite apart from finding the wing of a 40-year-old Chelsea legend to nestle under, the Derby move has provided the teenager with minutes on a football pitch. 

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To be precise, 1065 minutes. This means the midfielder has more than double the game time of any of his precocious national rivals this season. That's 1032 more than Loftus-Cheek, 901 more than Phil Foden, 870 more than Jadon Sancho and 598 more than Ryan Sessegnon. 

Even the more "established"/"faded" English roses of Ross Barkley and Jack Wilshere wither in comparison, clocking in at 695 and 731 minutes less respectively. 

Of course, the even larger elephant standing next to the now intimidated elephant in our cramped proverbial space, is that Mount is yet to play a second in the Premier League. But the 19-year-old has had a canny knack of stealing the limelight at every step up the ladder.

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