Chelsea have opened the doors for Reece James to be the next youngster to get a chance under head coach Frank Lampard by agreeing to loan Davide Zappacosta to Roma.
The 27-year-old is finalising a return to Italy by joining Roma on loan for the season, with James in line to replace the Italian as Cesar Azpilicueta’s deputy at right-back once he is fit.
Chelsea rejected enquiries from as many as five Premier League clubs, including Crystal Palace, Brighton and West Ham United, for the highly-rated 19-year-old who impressed during a season on loan at Wigan Athletic.
James underwent ankle surgery in the summer and hopes to be available to Lampard in the coming weeks.
Lampard has already displayed his commitment to youth by handing starts to Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham during Chelsea’s first three games of the season.
And James could be next in line to benefit from his boss’ affinity towards youngsters once he is fully match fit.
From a Chelsea point of view though, was this an ideal move by the West London side?
The club needed to cut the amount of foreign players in their squad to meet quota rules for the Premier League and Champions League.
That makes sense as Reece is English and is also a homegrown player (he joined Chelsea at six) hence he perfectly fits the homegrown and English quota rule.
The teenager could offer something of a potential tactical makeover once he is available.
Chelsea captain Azpilicueta has struggled during the first two Premier League games of the season against Manchester United and Leicester City.
But rather than simply having the option of dropping the popular Spaniard, Lampard could also look at James by switching Azpilicueta to the left, where he was used during Lampard’s Chelsea playing days.
Being a natural right-back, it would be a more ideal move than dropping his current captain.
Also at 19, he has lots to learn and can greatly improve his game learning under a player with lots of experience in Azpilicueta.
Though he’s still young, the 19-year-old has already shown some major fitness concerns.
It’s not every day we get to see a teenager undergo ankle surgery and Lampard should be wary of the recurring trend his youngsters are gradually displaying.
Not forgetting that Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are still facing spells on the sidelines as well due to injuries.
Also if Reece James is the future heir to the right-back position, shouldn’t Chelsea have pushed for a permanent transfer rather than a loan move for Zappacosta?
With the 27-year-old’s contract to due to expire in two years, this summer likely represents Chelsea’s last chance to get any real money for Zappacosta before his value significantly depreciates – even if Roma weren’t offering much, it’s probably more than the Italian will fetch in a year’s time.
Instead, Zappacosta is due to return to Stamford Bridge next summer, when his contract
will have just twelve months left, and the Blues will have to try and offload him once again, most likely at a reduced cost.
Which all begs the question of why Chelsea are postponing the inevitable when they’ve already found an interested party and even better, an able replacement.
Ultimately it’s a promising development for Lampard and Chelsea fans. It’s always a good sight to see homegrown players develop and mature into prospects for proper first-team action.
Reece James’ physicality and his attributes (pace) are ones that will make him an exciting talent to watch on the flanks.
All things going well, Lampard might be on his way to building a promising crop of youngsters for the future.