Frank Lampard always knew nothing would stop Andreas Christensen from making it at Chelsea — even a potential record bid for Virgil van Dijk.
Lampard was still a key Chelsea player when Christensen joined the club’s academy from Brondby at the age of just 15. The Blues legend had seen many bright prospects tipped for Chelsea stardom over the years only to fall at one obstacle or another.
Christensen stood out, though, and the now-retired Lampard never had any doubts that the player would make it, even when Chelsea were in the running to buy Van Dijk from Southampton last summer.
The Dutchman eventually joined Liverpool for £75million in January. Had Van Dijk joined Chelsea instead, Lampard is convinced Christensen would still be in the current side.
He told Standard Sport: “Even if Van Dijk had come in, the player Christensen is, he’d have handled anything.
“You put a team around those players even at his age. He wouldn’t have had a problem whoever they signed.
“I trained with him a fair bit when I was still there. We were all very aware of his abilities. He came over to join in senior sessions when he was 16 and was very impressive.
“Some young players were not ready for the increase in speed of the game, to make decisions and choices on the ball when they were invited to join in.
“But even at that young age you could see he had a composure and an awareness about him that made him fit straight in.”
Like many of his predecessors and those who have followed him into the academy, Christensen was sent away on loan to get first-team experience.
After two impressive years at Borussia Monchengladbach, he was rewarded with a place in Antonio Conte’s squad at the start of the season.
But within a matter of weeks, the 21-year-old had gone from back-up player to taking David Luiz’s position in the middle of the back three.
Lampard said: “Chelsea take a lot of criticism for loaning players out but Andreas is a perfect example of how it’s done right.
“It is massively important for the academy and the young players to see Christensen in the first team now. He is a great example for everyone.
“The young players can learn from his application. He has shown if you do things right, apply yourself, you will get your chance.”
The greatest sign of Christensen’s influence was the sight of Chelsea conceding seven goals without him against Bournemouth and Watford.
Chelsea have huge fixtures over the next few weeks, including the FA Cup fifth-round match at home against Hull City tonight, the Champions League clash with Barcelona on Tuesday and League games at Manchester United and Manchester City, so no wonder his swift recovery from a hamstring problem was greeted with relief.
Lampard cannot emphasis enough what a valuable asset the Denmark international has become. “At his age and with the talent he’s got, he is worth an awful lot of money,” he said.
“Chelsea have signed him to a long-term contract so you can put whatever figure you want on it. But they are never going to sell him. He is not going anywhere.
“It’s very important that he’s back fit again for these big games because he is a key player and this is crunch time of the season.”
Lampard is not the only one to appreciate Christensen’s talent. He is one of five nominees in the Young Player of the Year category at the London Football Awards, which take place on March 1.
Given Lampard’s obvious loyalties, one might assume that he does not give Ryan Sessegnon, Davinson Sanchez, Harry Winks and Ainsley Maitland-Niles much of a chance.
However, he said: “It’s a really strong category and you can make a case for all of them. For example, Davinson is not playing like a 21-year-old. The way he’s come into the Premier League, a real step up in quality from the Dutch League, has been impressive.
“Winks has become a real contender for the England squad, especially when playing regularly. But they have all made giant steps in the last year and are deservedly in the running.”