Mount alongside Rice: The Chelsea midfield pairing that could’ve been

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The duo played together for the Blues at youth level and the Derby loan star has been hugely impressed by the 20-year-old's progress at West Ham

'Here's Mason Mount now, he checks inside and plays a neat one-two with Declan Rice... he's put the ball through to Ruben Loftus-Cheek, he steadies himself and takes aim... GOAL!'

This hasn't happened yet but it could well be a scenario we'll see in the future with England. Had things turned out differently, we may have already seen it for Chelsea.

Mount, Rice and Loftus-Cheek have all been through the youth system at Stamford Bridge but only one remains in Maurizio Sarri's first team as we approach the final two games of the Premier League season.

Since being sent out on loan to Derby for the 2018-19 campaign, Mount has, however, been in sublime form. The midfielder has not only scored eight goals, but set up an additional four to help his side to sixth place in the Championship table with one game to go. 

Meanwhile at West Ham, former Chelsea youngster Rice, who spent eight years at the club, has been one of the revelations of the 2018-19 Premier League campaign, resulting not only in his England debut, but also in alleged interest from Manchester United

The duo’s fine form this season will have some Blues fans thinking about what might have been, with the Chelsea faithful keen to see more homegrown players in the first team.  

With Jorginho and N'Golo Kante being virtually untouchable and one of Mateo Kovacic or Ross Barkley often occupying Chelsea’s third midfield slot, there's not been an awful lot of room for academy graduates in the middle of the pitch this season. 

Loftus-Cheek has done well to break into the starting XI in recent weeks with some encouraging displays, but the 23-year-old has still been limited to a mere five Premier League starts this term. 

And although Chelsea have produced plenty of midfield talent - as illustrated by the performances of Mount, Rice and Loftus-Cheek - a midfield consisting of three former academy stars seems like a very distant possibility at this stage. 

Mount, 20, is likely to return to Stamford Bridge at the end of his loan spell, but Rice was released at 14 years old and is now being linked with a move to Old Trafford. 

The duo shared a close friendship during their time together at the club and Mount remains hopeful they will be reunited at some point, either at club or international level. 

Mason Mount Derby 2018-19

Declan Rice West Ham 2018-19

"We grew up with each other throughout the age groups [at Chelsea]," Mount told Goal. "He got released at 14, so that was a big blow for me because he was a close friend of mine. He was one of my best mates at Chelsea, but we have always kept in contact. We keep in contact now and speak to each other almost every day.

"You see how he is doing well, how he has bounced back from being released. Now he has gone to West Ham, has done what he has, and he is playing in the Premier League now. So he has done so well.

"I am so proud of him for doing that as well. I am really close to him. He was always a centre-back when he was younger. I was always a midfielder, so we would always have that connection.

"He has gone to West Ham and he has started off as a centre-back and has now moved into midfield. It is not easy to do that. He is a midfielder who is mostly defensive minded so that’s great for them to have him in their team because he is an unbelievable player.

"We would always speak to each other about maybe playing with each other one more time, or again. He was playing for Ireland so it didn’t really look like a possibility and now he has chosen to play for England and I was buzzing with his decision. Now we will see what happens in the future if we can play with each other one more time."

Whereas Mount and Rice have enjoyed a successful season away from Chelsea, another academy graduate did manage to make a name for himself at Stamford Bridge this term, with Callum Hudson-Odoi becoming a fan's favourite before an Achilles injury ended his 2018-19 campaign in April.

"I know Cal from playing with him and growing up together," Mount added. "He was the one who would play up [an age group] with us.

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"He has had an unbelievable season. He has always had that technical side, that ability, that special thing you need to have throughout the ages.

"He has grown and got better and better. He has done brilliantly this season and hopefully he can carry on doing that. You always want the academy players and young boys to come through to try and get into the first team.

"It is obviously tough but if you are good enough it is going to happen and with Ruben and Cal, some other players as well, they are doing that. If you are working hard and good enough, then it will happen."

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