By Jack Tarrant
YOKOHAMA (Reuters) – Frank Lampard knows he will have to rely on youth during his first season as Chelsea manager, but the former midfielder is excited about working with two of his young charges in particular — Kurt Zouma and Mason Mount.
Following Chelsea’s 1-0 pre-season friendly loss to Japanese champions Kawasaki Frontale in Yokohama on Friday, Lampard praised Zouma, 24, and Mount, 20.
French defender Zouma spent last season on loan at Everton, where he impressed so much that the Merseyside club’s manager Marco Silva wants him back. Lampard, however, wants to keep his man at Stamford Bridge.
“He is a very good defender for us. A very good person, professional and I want him here. Simple as that,” said Lampard.
“We are competitive with the centre backs we have in the team and he had a very good season at Everton – I understand why they want him – but he is a Chelsea player. I want him and I want him to be happy.”
Zouma played alongside David Luiz at centre back during the first half against Kawasaki and the Brazilian wants to make that a permanent partnership this season.
“He is a great player and a great friend of mine so it was amazing to be with him again,” said Luiz.
“I hope he can stay because he will help us a lot.”
Another player to return to Chelsea this campaign is midfielder Mount, who played under Lampard on loan at Derby County last season.
He signed a five-year contract earlier this month and Lampard is happy to throw the Chelsea academy product into the first team immediately.
“It is time for him,” said Lampard.
“His qualities will improve, even more with the quality around him and everybody knows the hopes I have for Mason.
“He showed today just a start, a little glimmer in early pre-season of what we might see this year and going forward.”
Chelsea have enjoyed success at academy level, winning seven FA Youth Cups between 2009-2018, but few of those players have gone on to play regularly for their first team.
Yet with the club under a FIFA transfer ban for the next two windows, Lampard may have to rely more heavily on youth.
Captain Cesar Azpilicueta believes Lampard is the best man to bring through young talent.
“We are very lucky; we have the best academy in England,” said the defender.
“We know we have the manager and his staff that have worked with a lot of young players during the last seasons and in a very successful way.”
Chelsea were second best against Kawasaki and the raucous home crowd got what they wanted when Brazilian striker Leandro Damiao took advantage of some sloppy Chelsea defending to head the winner four minutes from fulltime.
Chelsea are in action again on Tuesday, when they play Barcelona in Saitama, just north of Tokyo.
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Toby Davis)