Frank Lampard has tipped Fikayo Tomori to become a “top player” after the Chelsea defender completed his loan switch to AC Milan.
Centre-back Tomori broke into Chelsea’s first team in style last season, blasting a fine long-range strike in a 5-2 win at Wolves to announce his Premier League arrival.
The 23-year-old even went on to make his England debut last term, having caught the eye of boss Gareth Southgate, but could not maintain that upward trajectory at Stamford Bridge this season.
Many Chelsea fans have expressed frustrations with Tomori’s loan, but Lampard insisted the academy graduate can still flourish in west London in the long-run.
Asked to explain to those vexed supporters why Tomori has left temporarily, Lampard said: “Because I have five centre-backs and I can’t do this job and expect to please every fan; that’s football.
“What players you should pick or not, whether you are searching for consistency or going on an unbeaten run there are questions.
“I have to pick two at a time and the numbers don’t always add up.
“Fikayo is a developing player, a very good player. He is going to be a top player.”
Five defeats in eight Premier League matches have left Lampard on thin ice and Chelsea scrapping to stay in touch with the top four and the race for Champions League qualification.
Thiago Silva’s summer arrival had left Tomori not only behind the vastly experienced Brazilian – but also Kurt Zouma, Toni Rudiger and Andreas Christensen.
Lampard has insisted he has a “long-term plan” to steer Tomori to his full potential in the blue of Chelsea, but until the end of the season at least, he will be sporting the red and black of Milan.
“I have seen him rise from arriving at Derby when he was quite a quiet lad to being one of the best defenders in the Championship and a Chelsea and England regular,” said Lampard.
“So I think his journey has been great.”
Milan have retained an option to buy Tomori in the terms of the loan deal, in what would prove a £25million summer fee, though the Italian giants are thought unlikely to be able to raise those funds.
“Honoured to have this opportunity to fight for this great club,” Tomori posted on Twitter.
“I can’t wait to show myself on the pitch.”