Football News

“He’s a potential Angel Di Maria” – Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino compares Cole Palmer to World Cup winner

By Harry Edwards

Published: 18:19, 29 December 2023

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino has heaped high praise on Cole Palmer, comparing the midfielder to World Cup winner Angel Di Maria.

Palmer joined Chelsea from Manchester City in the summer for an initial fee of £40m as the Blues continued their build for the future, stacking their squad with young talent. The 21-year-old’s arrival was met with a bit of confusion as he had played a bit-part role for Man City in the early stages of the season, scoring in both the Community Shield and Super Cup.

No one really knew what to expect of Palmer, thrown into a Chelsea squad very much in transition where there were probably hopes of him being the player around which to build. But he’s certainly made a name for himself, already staking a claim to be one of the club’s players of the season.

The Englishman has played all but one league game for Chelsea since he made his debut in a 1-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest, missing the midweek win over Crystal Palace through suspension. In his 18 appearances so far this season across all competitions, Palmer has scored six goals and providing five assists for the Blues.

All six of those goals have come in the Premier League, with four of those from the penalty spot, with Palmer proving himself to be very cool under pressure — not least when stepping up to take a late penalty in the 4-4 draw with his former club Man City. For Chelsea, only Nicolas Jackson (seven) has scored more league goals than Palmer this season, while only Conor Gallagher (four) has more assists than his three.

However, no player has created more chances for Chelsea than Palmer’s 25 this season, which averages out to 2.14 per 90 minutes in the Premier League, and he also leads the way for Big Chances created (seven). Palmer is also key for winning the ball high up the pitch with 14 possessions won in the attacking third, as well as 235 final third passes completed and 11 through-balls attempted (with six completed).

Key to the way Chelsea play, it appears that the Blues have a gem on their hands, and while Pochettino isn’t getting ahead of himself, the Argentinian couldn’t help compare Palmer to Di Maria.

“In the position that he plays, and because he’s a left-footer and because he has some similarities and the quality, he’s a potential Angel Di Maria,” Pochettino told TNT Sports.

“Angel is a world champion, he was in Paris [Saint-Germain] with us, and is an amazing player.

“He [Palmer] has the capacity and the potential to be close to him, with time. He’s still far away, but this type of player that can link, can be a playmaker, have the capacity to score, assist, it’s this type of player like Angel.”

Although Pochettino’s time with PSG wasn’t long, he still oversaw 57 games with Di Maria, with only three managers using the winger more. Under Pochettino, Di Maria scored seven goals — obviously hindered by the likes of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in the team, but recorded an impressive 16 assists across all competitions.

Di Maria was mostly used on the right wing for Pochettino, where he has played throughout his career, cutting onto his left foot, though there were a couple of appearances through the middle. This season, Palmer been deployed either on the right wing or through the middle of Pochettino’s 4-2-3-1, and has sometimes been the only Chelsea player producing in otherwise disappointing displays.

“Always you expect when you sign a player, you expect that they perform in the best way,” he added of Palmer.

“But of course he’s performing really well from Day One, he’s adapted very well to the club, to the team-mates, to Chelsea life, and yes it’s amazing, because always you expect the player can perform well, but he’s doing excellent.”