The success of Chelsea's youth academy during the Roman Abramovich era can mostly be measured through other clubs. Chelsea have proven their ability to produce Premier League level players over the years, but very few of them have made a significant impact on the first-team at Stamford Bridge. The majority have had to find opportunities elsewhere, which is probably no surprise given the huge resources that have allowed the club to sign so many experienced, world-class players over the past two decades.
For that reason, Mason Mount quickly became the poster-boy for the 'new' Chelsea under Frank Lampard last season. A home-grown product, earning a regular place in the England team and performing consistently for Chelsea in the Premier League, while being nurtured by a young English manager who also happens to be a club legend. It sounded almost too good to be true for Chelsea and England fans, so it's easy to understand why Mount has received so much attention and hype over the past year.
The manager changed but Mason Mount has remained the heartbeat of this Chelsea team. pic.twitter.com/OOM3vrMWxy
— Alex Goldberg (@AlexGoldberg_) February 20, 2021
For every player that receives hype, there will always be a backlash. So at the young age of 22, Mason Mount finds himself in the strange position of being over-hyped by many of those who sing his praises and under-rated by those who are keen to dismiss the hype-merchants. None of this is Mason Mount's fault of course, who deserves credit for his performances for Chelsea over the past year.
In Chelsea's draw with Southampton, while his side gave arguably their worst performance so far under new manager Thomas Tuchel, it was Mount who earned the point by first winning and then scoring the penalty that made it 1-1. It was the first penalty that Mount has taken in his senior professional career, yet you wouldn't have known it given how confidently and clinically he sent the goalkeeper the wrong way and placed the ball in the bottom corner.
If Mount can continue to perform consistently at this level and hold down a place in the Chelsea team under Thomas Tuchel, given the competition for places in their squad, he will go a long way to silencing the doubters. But what probably won't help him along the way though, are the likes of ex-Chelsea player Joe Cole setting unrealistic expectations for his career.
Speaking on BT Sport before the Chelsea Southampton game, Cole may have gone a little overboard in building up Mount's potential.
Mason Mount is one of life's mysteries - how people could criticise him for playing so much. He played so much for Frank not because he's a nice lad, which he is, but because he's a top top player. Tuchel's come in, he was out of the team in the first game, Tuchel's a clever man and realised this kid is a proper player. He epitomises what Chelsea's all about.
I told him off-air when things weren't going well for Frank, some of the players weren't standing up and pushing their chest out, his levels stayed the same and tried to drive the team. That's a massive sign of maturity and that's why Frank gave him the captain's armband right at the end. He'll go on to be one of the top players in Chelsea's history, he's that good.
It's fair enough for Joe Cole to stick up for a young English player at his old club. But based on Mount's form so far, to predict that he will reach the heights of the likes of Frank Lampard, John Terry, Didier Drogba, Eden Hazard or Gianfranco Zola - seems like a bit of a stretch to say the least.
Mason Mount has shown impressive maturity and consistency for Chelsea this season, and his place in the team has been well earned. He has shown enough promise to have a good Premier League and international career over the long term. But he has as much chance of ending up as one of Chelsea's best ever players, as Joe Cole does of becoming one of football's best ever pundits.