Nathaniel Chalobah has locked his Premier League title medal in a safe — and wants another gold from the England Under-21s ’ Euro campaign, writes Simon Bird in Kielce .
Rather than going out on loan last season, the Chelsea midfielder battled with N’Golo Kante, Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic for a chance at Stamford Bridge, and was rewarded with a champion’s medal.
“After biting it a few times, I realised it was actually real! I’m never giving that one away, ever. Not many people get one of those,” said Chalobah.
“It would be perfect to have another from here to go with it. It would be an amazing achievement. But that is a long way off and we’ve still got a big job to do.”
England will top their group and reach a semi-final in Krakow if they beat Poland on Thursday night.
Chalobah is already approaching a century of caps for England’s various age-group teams, after making his Under-16s debut at the tender age of just 13.
If the Young Lions can reach the final next week, it would complete a season of personal progress.
The 22-year-old has been sent out on loan to six clubs — Napoli in Italy, plus Middlesbrough, Watford, Nottingham Forest, Burnley and Reading; a nomadic football education that helped to reap the top reward this season.
But Chalobah is hoping to kick on further after learning from Chelsea’s best players and nudging into the first team for 14 appearances last term.
He said: “I’ve learned every day.
“From Kante, his work rate and defensive quality – he just got better on the ball as the season went on; Matic, for his composure and passing, and Cesc’s passing and ability to pick up passes.
“It’s a very high standard at Chelsea, the club has an amazing academy and produces really top players. It’s just there’s that barrier of getting in there – and then staying in there.
“You’re playing for one of the best teams in Europe – they’re now back in the Champions League – and the demand is high on winning. We won the league and I have competition from European Cup winners, World Cup winners and full internationals. The manager Antonio Conte’s tactical awareness, his passion and desire to win all rub off on everyone.”
And it was a winning mentality that helped Chalobah and his U21 team-mates come back from 1-0 down to beat Slovakia 2-1 on Monday and set up a showdown with the hosts.
Now in his third U21 Euros, he anchors manager Aidy Boothroyd’s midfield with authority.
“We’ve got to go into the Poland game with a mindset to win,” added Chalobah. “No complacency because we’ve only won one game, so we’ve just got to be positive.”
Then he has the task of making the big step up to the seniors.
“Gareth Southgate has already called up Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse, players who are here now,” he said.
Another winner’s medal would certainly help Chalobah’s cause.