When Mason Mount received a call-up to England’s senior squad back in October 2018, there was a sense of intrigue around the promising midfielder’s inclusion.
The Chelsea wonderkid had enjoyed a hugely successful 2017-18 campaign on loan at Eredivisie side Vitesse and had been equally impressive for Championship outfit Derby County in the opening stages of this season during another temporary spell away from Stamford Bridge.
He had, however, zero Premier League appearances to his name and an invitation for England’s Under-21 squad would perhaps have been the more logical option.
But that does not take into account that the gifted youngster has always been regarded as one of the country’s biggest talents, alongside fellow future superstars such as Jadon Sancho, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Phil Foden to name just a few.
Mount grew up a Portsmouth fan, but joined Chelsea at the tender age of six to take his first step toward what seems like inevitable greatness, snubbing both his boyhood club and Southampton.
“I was training with Portsmouth and Southampton a little bit more because it was close to home. Then I would travel up to Chelsea to train with them,” the 20-year-old told Goal .
“At Chelsea, it was a totally different level. The boys were so much better, the training was a year in advance of the other two academies. It was the best decision because you learn so much, with the competition between the boys being so much higher.”
Mount smoothly progressed through the ranks at Chelsea, winning two FA Youth Cups and the UEFA Youth League before joining up with the Under-23s.
"As a midfielder wanting to score goals, of course I looked up to Frank Lampard!" ⚽️@masonmount_10 speaks to @NizaarKinsella about his influences, moving to Holland at 18 and developing at Chelsea 👇 pic.twitter.com/WSp4jbBPP3— Goal (@goal) April 29, 2019
That level soon proved to be not enough of a challenge, though, and he left London for a temporary spell abroad at Vitesse.
“I think it was the best decision I made at that time. I had a season of U23s football and I played in almost every game,” he added.
“For me, at that time I needed to move on. I didn’t need to play another year of U23s and it wouldn’t have helped me.
“So it was a massive decision to move out to Holland. I was 18 and moved to a different country on my own. It was a tough decision but, looking back on it now, it was the best decision. I learned so much from being out there."
Some might have hoped Mount would get his chance with Chelsea’s first team upon his return, but the decision was made for him to continue his development elsewhere again.
When the opportunity to team up with Frank Lampard and Jody Morris at Derby presented itself, the attacking midfielder did not need long to think things over and he has no regrets over his decision.
"I think there’s a massive difference [between me before I moved and now]," Mount added.
"I will have around 80 games when I finish this season. I am learning so much from playing in the professional leagues and I think I have gained so much experience.
"I have added different parts to my game. You learn so much from these different players that you wouldn’t have playing in the academy at U23s level.
“Growing up I was always small. I think growing up through the academy and being the small one, you get that technical side of the game and you are learning from bigger players.
"When you do get that ability and you are playing against bigger players then you know what to do. That's what I have definitely gained throughout the academy and through the game that you have to learn that different side of the game."
Mount is typically praised for his goals and assists from midfield, while those who watch him can immediately spot that he has a level of technique not usually found in English football.
A first hat-trick in English football for Mount came in Derby's recent 4-0 win over Bolton Wanderers and working with Lampard - who was renowned for his goals from midfield - seems to be rubbing off on him.
"Frank was an example throughout my career at Chelsea, and throughout my career as a midfielder," Mount continued. "When it comes to scoring goals as a midfielder, you look at Frank Lampard as a role model.
“When the gaffer came in from day one, he was talking about working off the ball and how we are going to press. It is his philosophy. We want to try to play with the ball well, but when we lose it, we want to try to get the ball back as quickly as you can.
“I try to press, try to lead off the press, because the strikers can't always hit the press. Sometimes from midfield, it is your time to go. Then the other team and players are coming with you. It gives you a good chance to get that ball back. We have been working on that a lot and continue to use it this season."
Mount sees Lampard as a role model, but the Chelsea legend is by no means the only player he draws inspiration from.
"I saw the games as well. I think those two were a big part of me growing up, looking at those as role models.
"My dad always said to me that every training session, you have to train like it is your best or it is your last training session. The competition, with boys coming in from other countries, you have always got to stay one step ahead if you want to stay there and be the best.”
Drawing inspiration from Lampard, Modric and Iniesta has served Mount well this season as he has been a key figure in Derby’s push for a play-off spot and he dreams of leading the Rams to glory at Wembley come the end of the campaign.
"It would mean so much," Mount concluded about getting Derby promoted. "After joining the club at the beginning of the season, even though I am a loan player, my focus is squarely on the club and getting them where they want to be.
"Even though I am not signed to Derby, they have made me feel like part of the club. They have made me feel so welcome and straight away I am focusing on getting that goal and into the Premier League.
"It is very tight at the minute. All the teams around us, it is so close. Every single player in English football wants to play at Wembley, that’s such a big dream.
"If we get there then we could get that win. We just need to keep winning our games, focusing on us, not worrying about what other teams do and hoping that the results go our way."