Mason Mount did a thing. The way the current football ecosystem works, that means The Thing must be talked about. Footballers doing amazing football things has always been something to talk about. But in the current social media-amped era of punditry, much of the talk about The Thing is either framed in a belittling way that suggests the thing that just happened is not done nearly enough to warrant celebration, or that the thing confirms that Mason Mount is the second coming of the Patron Saint of Goalscoring Chelsea midfielders, Frank Lampard.
I’m going to posit to you another way: Breathe, and enjoy.
What Mason Mount did to Porto, Zaidu Sanusi specifically, was the type of cruelty everyone (sans the Sanusi family) can admire. Other Porto players would never admit it, bravado is the thinnest of veils, but that turn and touch is a move every footballer wants to pull off in a match. Not only does the bang-bang speed and dexterity result in the Porto left back being spun to the floor, but the move was so complete in its brutality that all he could do was sit on his knees and pray that Mount wouldn’t complete the highlight by finding the net. His prayer went unanswered.
THE TURN. THE FINISH.— Champions League on CBS Sports (@UCLonCBSSports) April 7, 2021
Damn, Mason pic.twitter.com/aONPYAIV8s
It was a brilliant bit of skill that deserves appreciation in the present, not the weight of a comparison from the past nor the unpredictability of future projection. This is the best way to experience Mason Mount right now: with blinders that obscure time.
By now we’ve all seen the video of a tiny mop-haired Mason being swallowed by official Chelsea training gear talking about, and executing, a free kick like Ronaldo. It was a fantastic glimpse into a boyhood wonder that instantly provides a rough but clear enough outline of what it took to get to Chelsea’s first team. If you’re a Chelsea supporter, you can and also should stop there. That’s the story few clubs ever have; particularly at the Champions League level, and especially in today’s money engorged football economy. In fact, Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford and City’s Phil Foden are the only ones that come to mind.
Still, there’s something special about Mount. Rashford will be 24 this year and Foden has just begun cracking Pep Guardiola’s lineup. Mount won’t turn 23 until 2022 and has already been a solid member of Chelsea’s first team for over a year now. There’s also the fact that Mount’s position has yet to be decided, primarily because his skill set is still evolving.
Because a key attribute of modern football is pressing, players capable of and willing to do it tirelessly, intelligently and without fouling, are godsends for most modern coaches. This made constructing the narrative of Mount as Lampard the Manager’s son he never had but always wanted. That is, until the legend was replaced by Thomas Tuchel and the well-travelled and respected football mind of the German saw Mount’s value as well.
Beyond this, Mount also has a knack for taking aim from outside of the box. It became a bit of a running joke, as he would seemingly opt against a simple or obvious pass in favor of battering the ball with his right boot. Then, some of those shots started going in. Against Jürgen’s reeling and injury-plagued Liverpool, Mount turned a gorgeous cross-pitch pass from N’Golo Kanté into the goal that gave Tuchel rechte prahlen over Klopp.
Fabinho 0-1 Mason Mount— Goal (@goal) March 5, 2021
Liverpool 0-1 Mason Mount
Liverpool 0-1 Chelsea
What a talent pic.twitter.com/rfGFZhjU4i
Mount has also continued to progress as a passer, so much so that he has gone from a sub-75% completion percentage with Derby County in the Championship in 2018/19 to an at-present 83% in the Premier League. While that number ranks as slightly above average for Premier League midfielders, it has yet to plateau (80.9% in 2019/20). And now, as Mr. Sanusi can attest, Mount is crafting ruthless skills in attacking half-space areas.
This is the present joy of Mason Mount. He is not today what he was yesterday and the vast unpredictability of growth makes it a futile effort to attempt to pinpoint what he’ll be tomorrow, let alone in 2025. This, right now, is the sweet spot of being able to enjoy a footballer still under construction. Mount, in this moment, is in rare possession of both the ability to ‘wow’ and a determined curiosity to discover the outer edges of his limits.
The most striking thing about the video of a young Mason Mount rapid-talking the way kids do when they’ve unearthed a discovery is that, in many ways, it’s still who he is and what he’s doing. It’s remarkable that at this level of football he’s still developing maneuvers to manipulate the ball, and now defenders, and being fascinated by his success. It’s even more remarkable that we get to watch it all.