Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho believes he has got the best of both worlds after hailing French youngster Lassana Diarra as the star of their 2-1 FA Cup third round victory over Huddersfield.
Diarra, being groomed as the natural successor to Claude Makelele's anchorman midfield role when the French veteran decides to retire, impressed throughout with a performance that belied his age as a late matchwinner from Eidur Gudjohnsen earned Chelsea a place in the fourth round.
The 20-year-old, signed from French club Le Havre in the summer, is happy with the 'future Makelele' tag he has gained since arriving at Stamford Bridge but Mourinho reckons he has got more than he bargained for after watching him excel against Huddersfield.
The Portuguese coach maintains that Diarra's game contains elements utilised by both Makelele and Ghana international Michael Essien and that is a real compliment for the talented youngster as well as a bonus for Chelsea.
"Diarra was my best player," declared Mourinho. "I told him after the game that for our next match against Sunderland he will be in the squad of 16 because you have to reward the performance of the player.
"He was the best for 90 minutes. He had a big personality with quality in his passing. He defended very well and I think he has a bit of Makelele's defensive qualities and Essien's qualities with the ball.
"Diarra runs with the ball more than Makelele and he had a very good game. I am very pleased with him.
"It's a big compliment for him although he still has a process to go through. He arrived in Chelsea in the summer from a Second Division team in France and it is a pity in the Premiership you can only have five players on the bench.
"If you could have seven players, like any other country, you could have these players on the bench and give him more chances to play. But for what he did against Huddersfield, he deserves my answer."
It was Diarra's first start in a Chelsea shirt and for a player who had previously been limited to fleeting substitute appearances against Real Betis and Anderlecht in the Champions League, his performance was simply outstanding.
The youngster, who hardly speaks any English, is happy to be compared to his veteran countryman Makelele.
"It is okay," he says. "It is a good opportunity to work hard with him in training. He helps me a lot and he talks to me."
Diarra's immediate impact against Huddersfield helped the Barclays Premiership champions to take a 12th minute lead through England under-21 international Carlton Cole.
But the Londoners were given a real fright in the 74th minute when Gary Taylor-Fletcher despatched a right-foot drive beyond Carlo Cudicini to put the League One side level.
Gudjohnsen spared the blushes of the home side when he fired home from Arjen Robben's left-wing cross nine minutes from time.
Town boss Peter Jackson was full of praise for his side and for Chelsea who presented Huddersfield's players with signed shirts after the game.
The Terriers were desperately disappointed they could not hang on for a replay and Jackson insists any other lower league sides drawn against Chelsea must make sure they enjoy themselves above all else.
"Any other lower league team drawn against them should come and enjoy it and compete with them," said Jackson. "We pushed them and another side might go there and push them all the way.
"We left the stadium knowing we gave it our best shot. I thought they were coming back to Huddersfield and Jose was coming into my office. That's what went through my mind. I would have had to expand the club budget and get some expensive wine in.
"We pushed them all the way and it was great credit to the team. I didn't want to go to Chelsea and get a hiding, I wanted to show people what a good young side we are and we did that.
"We showed them too much respect in the first 45 minutes but in the second half we caused them problems. We wanted to enjoy the occasion but we could only do that if we competed and played well."Reuse content