The jewel in Chelsea’s crown?

Chelsea's Nathaniel Chalobah Nathaniel Chalobah put pen to paper and signed up to what could be a roller coaster five years for both himself and Chelsea last week.

The 18-year-old, who already has seven England U21 caps to his name, took to the Championship with Watford last season like a duck to water.

In his first full professional season, Chalobah was often seen caressing passes left, right and through the middle, proving a pivotal cog in the Watford set-up, despite their influx of loans from abroad.

And now it seems, he is ready to fulfil his potential at the highest level of the game.

On Chalobah’s new deal, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho commented: “He’s a very, very good player and I like him very, very much. I am very impressed. For sure he is a Chelsea player.”

High praise indeed, for a footballer of any experience level.

The starlet, originally from Sierra Leone, has also won praise from Hornets manager Gianfranco Zola.

Asked whether he thought Chalobah could be the new Frank Lampard, Zola said: “Frank is more like an offensive midfielder where he gets the ball and he scores important goals.

“Nathaniel can be very offensive, obviously, but we try to give him the structure of more of a holding midfielder, who organises the play from the back.

“He can certainly play in the position that Frank plays but his best, in my opinion, will come playing in front of the defence.”

After such an introduction then, what can be expected of Chalobah in years to come?

What is certain is that in the immediate future, he will be playing his football with another Premier League club.

While Mourinho sees Chalobah as a big part of Chelsea’s plans going forward, as was evidenced by his willingness to use him during the Blues’ pre-season, he has stated that another season away from Stamford Bridge will serve the youngster well.

It is not a surprise and certainly should not be a reason taken to mean that Mourinho is providing the player with false hope.

After all, Chelsea have multiple players of quality to keep happy and Chalobah has just a season of Championship experience under his belt.

Where Chalobah ends up this season is a question not so easy to answer though, as all manner of clubs have been linked with the 6ft 1in athlete.

Looking further ahead, anyone who has watched Chalobah on a regular basis would be hard pushed to suggest that he will not become a star of English football.

With the international days of Steven Gerrard and Lampard numbered, Chalobah looks set to move into the senior England set-up.

The debate in coming years might be how to utilise Chalobah, Jack Wilshere and Tom Cleverley together.

On paper, the trio look fearsome now. If England can get the best out of all of them when they peak therefore, it could just be a recipe for success.

Alternatively however, Chalobah may become of service to the heart of England’s defence.

Mourinho used him as a central defender during pre-season. If it is therefore the plan of Mourinho to use Chalobah as such, there is, as of yet, no reason to suggest he would not be a success.

Domestically, who is to say he won’t fill the void left by John Terry when the Chelsea skipper eventually moves on?

For all the money Roman Abramovich can throw at making the west London club into a European superpower, Chalobah could well be the mainstay in Chelsea’s team for years to come.

He is, as The FA describe him, ‘tall, athletic and comfortable in possession, a calm and composed player in either midfield or defence, both quick in the tackle and also able to play the ball sharply and accurately across the pitch’.

Of course, fans who have not seen Chalobah play could well question whether he is just another young player who displays signs of promise, but actually, when push comes to shove, does not have the ability to progress.

Testimonials from Gianfranco Zola and Jose Mourinho should dispel doubts about Chalobah’s ability though.

The question should be rather – how long will it take Chalobah to become a recognised star of football?