After over a decade at Leicester, Ben Chilwell’s departure for Chelsea was one that came with mixed emotions, including sadness from those he was leaving behind.
Though not quite as sad as the farewell montage to his good friend that James Maddison posted on social media made it seem.
‘I did feel emotional [watching it], yeah,’ Chilwell smiled, recalling the collection of video of clips of him and Maddison together.
Ben Chilwell grew up watching his new manager Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole
‘It was actually quite funny because I probably got more messages from that video that I did from the actual move itself.
‘It went down quite well though I had a few people messaging me having a little joke that it was like I had passed away.’
But far from it. Chilwell’s £45m transfer to Chelsea has put a spring in his step, especially now he has overcome the foot injury that delayed his involvement until last week.
After leaving the comforts of the club he called home to join one of the Premier League’s elite, something he always seemed destined to do, Chilwell is ready for the huge demands that come with joining Chelsea.
The left-back admitted to being ‘starstruck’ at spending a few hours chatting with Cole
‘I am more excited than anything,’ said Chilwell, who revealed former boss Brendan Rodgers was desperate for him to stay but acknowledged that joining Chelsea will help ‘take me to the next level.’
‘It does come with high expectations. Winning stuff here is what is needed, and nothing less. That is one of the reasons I joined,’ Chilwell said.
‘I am not 18, 19 and happy to be playing in the Premier League. I am 23 and I want to start winning stuff.’
Given that, his position and status as an England and now Chelsea player, it was no surprise that picking the brains of Blues youth coach, former stalwart and England centurion Ashley Cole was high on Chilwell’s list of priorities.
Chilwell is ready for the huge demands that come with joining Chelsea for £45m
Once he settled down south and in at the club, with help from some of Chelsea’s young England contingent who was familiar with from their youth team battles and the Three Lions setup, ‘the next thing I wanted was to meet Ashley Cole,’ Chilwell said.
‘My agent [Stellar Group managing director David Manasseh] is good friends with him.
‘I asked him if he would mind giving Ash a call so I could meet him. He got back to me and said Ash was happy to meet me and so I rang Ash and we organised a time and a place. He invited me over to his house which was nice and a really good afternoon getting to know him.’
Chilwell grew up watching his new manager Frank Lampard as well as Cole and said: ‘It was a mixture of nerves and excitement. I was star struck to meet someone I have idolised for so long.’
Chilwell’s departure prompted a farewell video on social media from James Maddison
Cole has been an admirer of Chilwell too saying last year that he ‘would love to see’ the 23 year-old move to Stamford Bridge and paying extra attention to his performances once speculation about him joining Chelsea, which was previously about Manchester City, gained momentum.
There was no autograph hunting when he met Cole – ‘I’m playing at Chelsea now I can’t really ask him for an autograph’ Chilwell smiled – but they had a picture to mark the occasion and he left armed with advice about what it takes ‘to become a top player’ at Chelsea.
Chilwell said: ‘He said as soon as he stepped in the building and saw the likes of the manager, John Terry, how much they would die for the badge and how they loved playing for Chelsea, he took that on straightaway.
‘He said if I could do that and not just play for the club but really want to do well for them then I should have no problem having a good career.’
Chilwell credits Cole as a big reason why the full-back position is now much more appealing.
Any doubts about moving on were quickly overtaken by excitement for the 23-year-old
‘Players like Ashley Cole started the trend of attacking full-backs, who want to get forward and are not all about just defending,’ he said.
‘When I was 12 or 13, when I first started playing at left-back, it had just started to become a much attractive position.’
Chilwell is part of an exciting crop of young English full-backs and has already displayed his attacking qualities in a Chelsea shirt with an assist on his debut against Barnsley.
But he knows what he can do at the other end, and what also helped make Cole a standout in his position, will be just as important. Especially to a Chelsea side searching for defensive solidity.
‘He [Cole] just said what the manager said, really, that it’s the perfect fit for me here, the style of football the manager wants to play with the full-backs attacking,’ Chilwell said.
‘Though I can’t get carried away with the attacking side of things because I’m a defender first and foremost.’