Chelsea starlet and Watford loanee Nathaniel Chalobah claims he doesn't feel the pressure of his highly-rated tag
He may not have made his professional debut until his arrival at Vicarage Road, but Nathaniel Chalobah has always had to carry around the ‘highly-rated’ and ‘future star’ tag.
From making his England Under-16 debut at the age of just 13, and his Under-17 bow a year later, to travelling with Chelsea’s first team for their Champions League win in the summer at just 17, people have always harboured high hopes for Chalobah.
But when asked if he feels the pressure of the ‘highly-rated’ tag, Chalobah replied: “No, not really, I don’t look at it that way. I just want to play football and keep my head down.
“I have the right people around me and giving me advice. As a player that is all you want and I am receiving that.”
On the success he has obtained so far, he added: “I don’t really see it like that. I am proud of myself and my family are proud of me but I am trying to push forward as I don’t think I have made it. I don’t want to be too comfortable and I want to push on every single day.”
Chalobah signed his first professional contract, a two-and-a-half year deal, in January following his 17th birthday.
The Sierra Leone-born player has yet to make his first-team debut for Chelsea but has already secured plenty of silverware; he played a big part in the Blues side which won the FA Youth Cup in 2010, followed that up by winning the Under-17 European Championships a few weeks later at the age of 15, secured the Reserve title last year and then this summer captained his parent club to another FA Youth Cup win.
It has been another hugely successful year for Chalobah this time around and days after the Youth Cup win, he travelled to Munich as part of the Chelsea squad who won the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history.
He said: “It was phenomenal. As a Chelsea fan, it was incredible just to be there and I couldn’t really complain. It will be something I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Chalobah has predominantly played as a holding midfielder during his five appearances for Watford but he can play in a slightly more advanced role or as a centre-back, which he did during the second half of his full debut.
The England Under-19 international was first moved to centre-half as a 12-year-old and has switched between the two positions throughout his development.
He explained: “I get asked about my position all the time and I really don’t know which is my best position yet because I am still developing and growing. I need to see how my body develops and how things turn out. We will have to wait and see.”
Chalobah admits he will need to be patient for his break with the Chelsea first team but confirmed talks about extending his six-month loan deal with the Hornets have yet to take place.
He says everyone at Watford has made him feel welcome and he is enjoying his football.
Chalobah said: “I wasn’t satisfied just sitting around and not playing games as I am really hungry and want to play football. Coming here would give me good experience and that is what I am receiving now.”
The majority of Watford’s signings this summer have come through the Pozzo-connection and their pool of players, but the signing of Chalobah was Gianfranco Zola’s.
When he was asked how far Chalobah can go recently, Zola replied: “He can go as high as he wants to. He has all the qualities to become a top player but he just needs to work hard every day and not lose the desire to work hard in training.
“The common mistake for players of his age, when they play and are having compliments like I am giving him right now, is to stop learning.
“It is too early; he has the potential but he has to really keep his feet on the ground and work hard.”
Based on our brief chat with Chalobah, it doesn’t seem like that will be a problem.