Mason Mount was frequently accused of being a 'teacher's pet' under Frank Lampard, and then again in an England shirt under Gareth Southgate. But, having earned similar admiration from Thomas Tuchel, has the penny finally dropped for his doubters? It isn't favouritism, it's talent...
Mount has certainly earned his stripes. At just 22 years of age, he has already racked up 16 years on Chelsea's books and refined his craft with back-to-back season loan spells at Vitesse in the Eredivisie and Derby from 2017/18.
The Chelsea connection bloomed with the Rams under Lampard and, when the academy prospect returned to Stamford Bridge, so too did Lampard to replace Maurizio Sarri at the helm.
Mount became an overnight starter in the Chelsea first team and had scored twice in his first three games during the 2019/20 campaign.
Mount represented England at every youth level and he received a senior call up from Gareth Southgate during his time at Derby - but he made his international debut against Bulgaria during that breakout year in 2019.
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As was the case under Lampard, Mount quickly became a regular starter for the Three Lions and there was a period of fan and media scrutiny over Southgate's preference to play the Chelsea midfielder over Jack Grealish.
The doubters were, perhaps, champing at the bit to state their cases proven when Thomas Tuchel replaced Lampard at Chelsea and benched Mount for his first game in charge - a goalless draw against Wolves.
But, again, Tuchel turned to Mount for the next game and has not looked back: his endorsement has, it seems, finally silenced the doubters...
In what areas does he excel?
This season, Mount leads the way at Chelsea across almost every meaningful attacking metric, including goals, chances created and passes in the final third in the Premier League.
In addition to his talents on the ball in front of goal, his defensive qualities and work-rate - often cited by Southgate - are equally impressive, ranking top at Chelsea for distance covered, recoveries in the attacking third and second for tackles.
The fact Mount tops the club's goal chart with six goals highlights the absence of a regular No 9 at the club - an issue recently referenced by Tuchel - but the German certainly has faith in his goalscoring potential.
"He has that potential which you cannot learn," Tuchel told Sky Sports. "You have the composure, you have the technique, you have the precision, you have the feeling to score the goals or you don't have it.
"I think he can be the type of guy who can produce double figures in every season. He's just in the middle of it right now and I don't want him to stop now. It's crucial."
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Indeed, Mount has spurned only one clear-cut chance in the Premier League this term - against Newcastle in November.
According to xG, almost all of Mount's efforts on goal this season were hard to convert, epitomising his fearless approach and bold confidence - unique qualities for a 22-year-old playing in England's top flight.
Has anything changed under Tuchel?
As was the case under Lampard, Mount remains Chelsea's talisman under Tuchel's new regime and, as previously mentioned, has remained an ever-present force since the German was appointed in January.
However, Tuchel has primarily deployed the England midfielder further up the pitch and utilised the right flank - having typically marshalled the left in deeper roles under Lampard.
That thrust upfield has helped boost his distribution and recoveries in the final third - while his goal ratio has soared threefold - suggesting Tuchel's preferred system with two holding midfielders has benefitted Mount's attacking play.
The numbers provide ample evidence. Since Tuchel's appointment, Mount leads the way for goals and chances created in the Premier League - while only Timo Werner has provided more assists.
Indeed, the graphic below reveals Werner is the only player that has averaged in more advanced positions than Mount since Lampard left the club, while the striker has typically played a far deeper role to link the inverted forwards and initiate breaks.
Mount's distribution also stretches the full spectrum - feeding team-mates in every direction in almost equal measure, firing both long and short passes, all while recording an above-average accuracy.
But where does Mount sit among the pool of prospects plying their trade in Europe's top five leagues? In terms of goal involvements, the graphic below reveals he belongs among the elite.
And remember: he has clocked half his game time as a deeper midfielder this term, in addition to possessing defensive qualities, distribution and work-rate unrivalled among many forwards who lead this list.
Mount will face one of his greatest challenges in his burgeoning career when Chelsea face Real Madrid this Wednesday - to determine whether the Blues can reach their first Champions League final in nine years and book a date with Manchester City in Istanbul on May 29.
Could the 22-year-old raise the bar even higher with a club and career-defining display on Europe's grand stage? The doubters have almost certainly been silenced.
Speaking after the 2-0 win over Fulham at Stamford Bridge on Saturday in which Mount assisted the first of Kai Havertz's two goals, Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel showered praise on the England midfielder.
"He has the full package, mentally, in terms of talent and physically," said Tuchel. "And the most important part is his character, he has his feet on the ground and he's a nice guy.
"He comes to Cobham every day to learn something new and have new experiences. He is the guy who can recover very fast, he's a very physical player and is fully adapted to Premier League football.
"He has big self-confidence in a very, very positive way. It's a pleasure to have him, be at his side and guide him and support him.
"It's impressive, he's not affected by all the praise. This is maybe the most important part. He seems to be a guy who likes the sport and feels an obligation to make the most out of it. And he wants it absolutely badly, so it's a top mix."