Nathan Ake has revealed the details of a special chat he had with Antonio Conte on his first day back with Chelsea, with the Italian challenging the defender to prove himself at Stamford Bridge.
The 21-year-old produced a riveting performance in a left-wing back role on his comeback to help the Blues record a 4-0 FA Cup win against Brentford on Saturday.
The versatile defender - who normally plays at centre-back or left-back - completed the full 90 minutes and looked assured in his new position as he played his first game since being recalled from his successful loan spell at Bournemouth earlier in the month.
Ake hadn't played for Chelsea since two substitute appearances in the 2014-15 season - a year in which he also played at Reading. The Dutchman also made a big impression last season at Watford in the Premier League and he believes that the loan system has set him up for a proper run at earning a first team place.
And speaking after the match, the defender revealed his discussions with Conte gave him confidence that he had a future with the Premier League leaders – even if he wasn’t to play in a familiar area.
“On the first day when I was back he called me into his office and explained the different positions he sees me in and what he expects from me when I play there," he continued.
"[He said] that for him age doesn't matter and I have to show him that I'm ready to be here. That's what I do in training: I try to train hard, play well and hopefully he'll see it.
"It was positive that he called me back and, of course, that gave me confidence. You have seen Nathaniel [Chalobah] and Ruben [Loftus-Cheek] getting games [this season] so it's good for the club."
"A couple of times I trained there [at wing-back]," he added. "[I've worked] more as a left centre-back, but in the last couple of days I've been training at left wing-back.
"It's a different position for me but I think it's good to play different positions. It was good to get experience there. It's a hard position. It's different for me but I enjoyed it a lot. There's a lot of up and down. You need a lot of energy but it's good to play.
"You have to get forward a lot - if the ball is on the other side you're almost a winger, basically. It's kind of different but it's good to get used to it and hopefully I can keep improving a lot of things."
"It's nice to be back, to get 90 minutes and to finish it with a win as well - it's a great day," Ake added. "It's always good to be involved at a club like this."
"Great clubs always fight for trophies and it's good to be here and yes maybe [I am proof of what the Chelsea loan system is for]. I think I've also developed more as a player. I gained a lot of experience in the last two years, played a lot of games.
"I feel a bit more experienced - maybe not too much, but more experienced than I was before. In the Premier League it's tough. When I went to Watford I was still maybe a boy, but I learned a lot that season and this season as well.
"Playing centre-back you have to win balls in the air, and I think I've learned. I think I was 19 when I went [on loan]. That's a good age to go and get experience and a lot of games.
"That was important for me, I needed it. You learn so much when you play week in and week out, and you come back a more complete player."
Chelsea won easily despite making a host of changes in the cup and Conte will have been impressed with those fighting for chances as he prepares his squad for two huge matches next week against title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal.