The need to typecast young players as the second coming of previous legends is one of those classic sports things that fans and media alike engage in on a regular basis. Some of it can be benign — comparisons like that can often be used as shorthand to describe the style, skills, and qualities of a player — but is more often than not counterproductive, incorrect, and at times even downright offensive (as every new emerging “new Vieira” or “new Yaya Touré” will attest to).
We’ve had our fair share of this at Chelsea, too, of course. Lukaku for years was the new Drogba. Before winning Player of the Year, Kanté was just a new Makélélé. We’ve looked for new Essiens, Lampards, Coles (both Ashley and Joe, not Carlton). And of course we’ve wondered who the next John Terry will be, not just as the next great young defender but as an actual Academy graduate to make it to the first-team (Ryan Bertrand almost did).
Andreas Christensen ticks both of those boxes.
“He’s an incredible footballer, one this club should be very proud of and hold on to very tightly because he’s a player we can definitely have here for the next 10 years and be another John Terry, have that same kind of stature, because he has got that ability.”
But to burden him with the expectations of emulating JT’s captain-leader-legend impact at the club is highly unfair, just as it is to limit him to simply becoming a rehash of JT as a player on the pitch. While they certainly share some characteristics, including comfort with the ball and excellent reading of the game, Christensen is his own player with his own strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.
“This is a big comparison [with Terry]. Don't forget, John Terry wrote the history of this club and won a lot. But I think [Christensen] has the right characteristics to play for this club for many years, to become an important player for this team, for this club.
“I wish Christensen to have the same career as John. I think Chelsea have found a player who can have the same career as some of the best defenders here.”
While Conte rightly plays down the specific JT comparison, he does speak to what we’ve all been predicting since watching him in the youth teams.
“When you start to play for a great club like Chelsea, for sure the future is yours,” Conte said. He's a serious person, always committed in training sessions. He doesn't speak a lot. He prefers facts to words. I can predict a fantastic career for him.”
That said, as rare it is to see success and quality at youth level translate to similar success at senior level, and with Chelsea, even, we mustn’t forget that Christensen is still just 21. Young players will make mistakes. They must be allowed to make mistakes, and most importantly, must be given the opportunities to learn from those mistakes as well. Christensen’s off to a flying start and maybe that will continue without pause. But if his form does drop, we need to remember to stay patient and maintain reasonable expectations.
And also give him that new rumored contract.
“This is for the club to find the right solution, but the player is very happy to stay with us and play with this regularly.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Independent