Watford manager Gianfranco Zola says on-loan midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah is the ideal replacement for Frank Lampard.
With Lampard’s contract due to expire at the end of next season it appears Chelsea will not be retaining the midfielder’s services. At 34-years-old it may be that the Blues are looking to freshen things up and former star Zola believes they may already have a ready-made replacement.
18-year-old Nathaniel Chalobah has been on-loan at Watford this season from Stamford Bridge. He signed for Chelsea when he was 10-years-old and is looking to become the first Englishman since John Terry, to graduate from the club’s academy to become a first-team regular.
He signed a professional contract with the Blues in January 2012, but only made his professional debut whilst on-loan at Zola’s Watford this season.
Chalobah has started regularly for the Hornets during this campaign and despite competing with a host of on-loan players from Udinese, has really impressed at Vicarage Road.
Despite having not yet played for the Chelsea first-team, the young midfielder has already shone on the international stage. Three years ago he helped England under-17s win the European Championships, beating Spain in the final. Now Chalobah is a regular in Stuart Pearce’s under-21s side.
Although the youngster is a very different style of midfielder compared to Lampard, it is the 34-year-old’s consistency and longevity that Chalobah is aspiring to recreate. His manager at Watford recognises these differences but thinks the 18-year-old can live up to his expectations.
“Certainly the talent is there,” Zola told the BBC.
“He needs to work a lot to play at the level Chelsea are at, and as a more defensive midfielder you need to be good with the ball and without the ball; and without the ball I expect him to keep improving.”
Chalobah will have the chance to prove himself when he returns to Chelsea at the end of the season.