Former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has revealed he chose to make Mason Mount captain in his final game as a reward for the young midfielder's development both on and off the pitch.
Lampard was regularly blasted for alleged favouritism towards Mount, and arguments for that only grew when the 22-year-old was made captain for Lampard's final game in charge - a 3-1 win over Luton in the FA Cup.
Fortunately, fans who were blind to Mount's talent have now had their eyes forcibly opened, and Lampard's faith in the midfielder is now widely accepted to have played a large part in the success of his replacement, Thomas Tuchel.
“I definitely made him captain that day because I've seen his leadership qualities develop, particularly this season,” Lampard told The Telegraph. “His form was developing this season, he’s Chelsea Player of the Year and rightly so because his individual performances have been immense particularly for someone of his age.
“But I saw his leadership skills in his personality developing this season and I've always seen it in Mason because there's a sternness about Mason, there’s a toughness about him. He’s a great lad, not always the most vocal but this year he’s starting to be a bit more vocal and he started just to ooze those qualities. So I made him captain for that and I saw him as a future Chelsea captain. That’s obviously other people's decisions now.”
Lampard, who admitted he saw a lot of himself in Mount, confessed he did not expect to grow so reliant on the young midfielder but was left with absolutely no choice but do give Mount such a prominent role in the team.
“He had a really good season with me at Derby and when I came to Chelsea, I knew that I wanted to put Mason not front and centre, but I wanted to give him the opportunity because I just felt that he would take it,” said Lampard.
“I thought it might be one where I give him some games and work in and around and take him out, but I ended up having a real reliance on him because of his incredible work ethic, setting the press from midfield and his really huge talent.
“When you have a player like that you really feel the benefit of them, so I never understood the criticism. I didn't care about it, but I did care that I had to defend him if it came up.
“I sensed earlier in the season that his levels had risen and they always will with Mason because of how dedicated he is. He'll get far stronger. He will get even more savvy on the ball. We’re seeing it all this time now.
“I really enjoyed working with him because it was happening before my own eyes and I was just delighted if there's my input into him, it’s the fact that Mason Mount would have become a top player anyway. He’s going to go to whatever level he wants to, but it was how quickly he could get there and how many games can he get under his belt and can he have that opportunity.
“He played 50-odd games last year and now you’re seeing immense confidence in himself that maybe wouldn't have been there if it had been more in and out, or had to go on loan again. So I'm pleased with the input I had, but it's all about Mason, he’ll have done it himself.”