Mason Mount just keeps getting better and better.
One day after Mount’s compatriot Phil Foden lit up the Champions League semi-finals with a sparkling performance, it was the turn of Chelsea’s English youngster to star on the biggest stage.
But perhaps the most notable aspect of Mount’s superb showing against Real Madrid was that it didn’t remotely come as a surprise.
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It’s not so long ago that Frank Lampard was being mocked for starting the ‘teacher’s pet’ ahead of players perceived as being more deserving of a Chelsea first XI spot.
And it’s also not so long ago that the judgement of Gareth Southgate was being called into question by thousands of fans - and plenty of pundits too - for picking Mount over Jack Grealish for England.
But nobody should be asking those questions now.
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Mount’s performance against Real was brilliant. Slated in a starting position on the left of a front three, the 22-year-old showed his flexibility to slot back into central midfield when required, drift more centrally when his team needed it, and continually offer a counter-attacking threat… all while helping Ben Chilwell keep the half-fit Eden Hazard and underwhelming Vinicius Junior extremely quiet.
Mount has a little bit of everything, the sort of player that every manager wants in their squad: intelligent, hard-working, technically superb – a new breed of English midfielder. And it was just days ago that his coach lavished similar praise on his young shoulders.
"He has the full package, mentally, in terms of talent and physically," Tuchel said of Mount following the 2-0 win over Fulham last weekend. "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.
Tuchel of course left Mount out of his very first Chelsea side to play Wolves. But he’s barely been on the bench since, with Wednesday night’s semi-final second leg being his 19th appearance since the German took charge.
The only significant game Mount has missed was due to suspension (he sat out the round-of-16 second leg against Atletico Madrid) and there was little doubt that he would start again at Stamford Bridge against Real. But Mount’s evening almost didn’t have the gloss that it deserved, with the midfielder blazing over the bar with an uncharacteristically rash finish on 53 minutes.
That miss – one of a number of fluffed chances from Chelsea on a night that should have been more comfortable – threatened to leave the door open for an undeserved Madrid equaliser. But another great quality of the Englishman is his relentless positive attitude, and he stayed alert when another counter-attack looked to have fizzled out late on, making a darting run across the face of goal to turn home Christian Pulisic’s low cross.
It was his ninth goal of a career-changing campaign, and by far the biggest. But, speaking after the match, Mount played down the success he’s enjoyed this year so far.
“Yeah, it’s been alright,” he smiled. “I haven’t won nothing yet though. We’ve got two massive cup finals, hopefully we can win them.”
Win them or not, Mason Mount is here to stay.
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