Frank Lampard hoped that recent Watford signing Nathaniel Chalobah would have remained at Chelsea, having seen him progress through the ranks while he was still at the club.
Chalobah began his first loan spell away from Chelsea during Lampard’s final season at the club, but by then he had already caught the ex-England international’s eye.
Watford signed Chalobah for £5 million last month as he entered the final year of his contract, though the Blues included a buy-back clause – and BT Sport’s football expert Lampard feels they may use it.
“I don’t know the politics of that but I like Chalobah,” Lampard told Goal. “I like the way he has come through because I have seen him come through as a school boy and watched his progress on loan.
“He improved while away, particularly when he went abroad [to Napoli]. I think that really improved him as a player and a person.
“I don’t know the ins and outs of why he left but there’s certainly that market of bringing these youngsters through to sell and get money in the short term and to bring them back. We see it happening particularly at Chelsea.
“I would have liked him to stay but from his point of view. I want to see him getting game time because he is old enough now. He should be playing every week and I am sure he will be doing that at Watford.”
Chelsea have seen a number of young players leave the club this summer as they struggle to break into the team ahead of more established players.
Chalobah departed along with Bertrand Traore and Nathan Ake on permanent deals from the club. Antonio Conte’s side have also loaned out over 20 players so far during this transfer window, including title winners Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Kurt Zouma.
Despite the player movement, Lampard thinks that the manager has done his best to blood youngsters and he believes that it is hard for the Italian to play less experienced players with patience for development so low in the Premier League.
“You have to perform well enough when you train with the first team or come on for 20 minutes to show you are good enough to come in and play,” Lampard added. “You can’t criticise managers too much [for not bringing them through] with the short lifespans they have got.
“They have got a big squad with experienced players who they know what they can get from. They want to play them to try and win things. At the same time, you look at Chelsea’s bench last year and they did have a lot of youngsters on it.
“Conte did give minutes to some of them. So I think it is a two-way thing. A: the club takes responsibility to bring them lads through and B: the lads, when they are in there, they have to train every day and prove they are as good or better than who’s already there.
“We don’t see that part. It is great for the fans to say, and I do agree that it would be good to see these guys come through, but you have to look behind the scenes and see that these guys are showing that they can do that.
“I’m not saying that they’re not but that’s the balance. I can’t see any reason why Conte wouldn’t want to try and blood young players, when you are winning two or three-nil then why not give these guys 20 minutes? I think he did last year but it is a two-way situation.”
Lampard joined Chelsea in 2001 from West Ham United when he was 22-years-old and fans quickly identified with the London-born youngster.
John Terry played alongside Lampard and he was a graduate of Chelsea’s academy system, but the club have struggled to find anyone comparable since those days. Lampard thinks that finding the ‘next Terry’ gets harder every year.
“Chelsea will be searching for a great youngster. Fans love to see homegrown [players] but I don’t think there will be another John Terry. Certainly not in the short term but if you can get those young players through then the fans can relate to them,” he said.
“They have come through the system. I think they will get one eventually but I don’t see a replacement coming to do what Terry did from the youth system. He was so influential in his personality.
“The story of him coming through at such a young age made such a link between him and the fans. Unfortunately, I think that might be something from an era gone by, I think young players will stay a lot less.”