Familiarity has bred contempt with Mason Mount but demanding Reece James parity is fair

Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount

Mason Mount is just 23 and it’s important to remember that when he is being judged as a senior player. His Chelsea managers value him even if you don’t.

‘Tuchel had better not mess Mount around’ wrote Henry Winter when the English media lost its sh*t over the killing of Bambi/sacking of Frank Lampard. He need to have worried because Tuchel valued Mount so greatly that only Antonio Rudiger and Edouard Mendy played more Chelsea minutes under his management. Mount was somehow valued even though Tuchel was German, the Champions League-winning manager picking players on talent rather than nationality like a, well, normal person.

Which is almost a shame because we were intrigued to see what The Times man – usually polite to a fault – was actually threatening. A tut?

Mount was Chelsea’s Player of the Year in both seasons of Tuchel’s reign, with the German’s only full Premier League campaign featuring 11 goals and ten assists from the diamond in the pile of poo that was the Blues’ attacking options.

This season was different for Mount, whose form dipped along with Chelsea’s; the identity of the chicken and the egg in this scenario is unknown but it’s important to remember at this juncture that Mount is just 23.

He has been such an integral part of Chelsea’s first team over the last three years that it’s easy to forget that he is barely a year older than Conor Gallagher. His experience relative to his age is immense and yet he is often judged on the former as a senior player who should never suffer blips of form. Instead of understanding noises about the inconsistency of young players, Mount is barracked as the average player who has been ‘found out’.

The low came in that opening Champions League game of the season against Dinamo Zagreb when Tuchel fielded Mount as part of his double pivot, an experiment that exposed him just as it had Gallagher.

By the second Champions League clash, Tuchel had been replaced by Graham Potter and 22/23 Mount had been replaced by a version that looked more familiar, buoyed by a new manager and new ideas. He has only improved in the games that have followed, with the double assist of the win over Wolves being followed by a 45-minute blitz in Milan that saw his run earn a penalty and the opening goal, and his touch set up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Chelsea’s slick second.

It’s phenomenal timing from Mount, who can go into contract talks demanding pay parity with Reece James and point to his latest performances. There will be many who scoff at the idea that Mount is James’ equal but the midfielder has long suffered from familiarity breeding contempt.

Is he Kevin De Bruyne? Of course not. But you can be equally as sure that Pep Guardiola would be interested should Mount become available, having lauded him three years ago as a Spanish-style player who can operate in tight spaces.

For all the frenzied talk of James Maddison – lauded as a maverick must-have by old men shouting at clouds who still daydream about Gazza – Mount is by far the more complete player. But ‘complete players’ are not sexy, even though ‘complete players’ can come off the bench for England and change games too.

Tuchel did not mess Mount around and neither will Graham Potter, who has already started Mount in every Chelsea game he has managed. He is a man who loves to tinker but Mount has so far remained immune from his machinations. His managers know his value even if the majority of football fans remain reluctant.