Chelsea look to Newcastle prodigy to fill legend’s boots

Chelsea look to Newcastle prodigy to fill legend’s boots

If reports are to be believed, Chelsea are determined to add a young, English centre-back to the ranks, presumably to replace arguably the best player in the position this country has ever produced.

At almost 36, Blues’ lifer John Terry isn’t quite the force he used to be and, with his contract whittling closer to its summer expiration, it’s unlikely he’ll be playing for the west London outfit next season.

Suggested heirs to the throne have included Middlesbrough’s Ben Gibson and Michael Keane of Burnley. Both are similar to the former England captain in the sense they utilise positional smarts and off the ball ability to combat a lack of pace, but their styles contrast with those of the centre-backs elite clubs tend to court.

The next red-top-suggested candidate to replace Terry, however, is armed with more of the tools a modern-day centre-half is expected to boast – Newcastle’s Jamal Lascelles.

Rumour has it that Antonio Conte will fork out as much as £18m to sign the former Nottingham Forest stopper, who is flourishing under Spanish tactician Rafa Benitez in the Championship.

As a talented defender looking to sharpen his skills, Lascelles couldn’t be in much safer hands and the expert advice he’s received from Benitez is reflected in his performances. The 22-year-old has starred in a backline that has kept eight clean sheets in his last 13 appearances.

Lauded for his pace and aerial presence, the youngster has plenty of raw materials to be a great defender, while stats from this season demonstrate how he possesses the Terry-like game-reading skills that can’t be taught.

He has averaged just 0.6 tackles and made 1.2 interceptions in 15 Championship appearances so far. Newcastle’s clean-sheet count with Lascelles in the fold suggests these low numbers aren’t causing problems, with his positional savvy negating the need to engage with opponents carrying the ball.

£18m sounds like a lot for a player with limited Premier League experience, but Lascelles will prove a worthy investment.