Mudryk has made De Zerbi stance clear as possible new Chelsea manager

Chelsea attacker Mykhailo Mudryk has struggled to transfer his electric form from the Champions League in 2022 at Shakhtar Donetsk to the Premier League. 14 months into his career at Stamford Bridge and the flashes of electric brilliance remain just that. Flashes.

The 23-year-old, who signed for an initial £62million that could rise to over £85million if he triggers some ambitious add-ons, has only managed five goals for the club since his move from Ukraine. In a patchy first full season at the club he has rarely looked more settled than during the final six months of last term.

He remains one of the great unknowns in the Blues’ squad for Mauricio Pochettino. Unable to tie a consistent place down and still capable of the sublime or disastrous at any moment, he looks little more established than the raw talent brought in under Graham Potter in January 2022.

His peaks and troughs have been a small element of nine months of struggle for Pochettino in charge. Having come in with the goal of turning Mudryk into Chelsea’s version of Son Heung-min, there is nothing to suggest a rise of the same order is on the cards.

Pochettino is now fighting to prove his worth as head coach in the final months of the season. Chelsea, in 11th, have plenty within reach optically – they are still in touch of the top seven and are favourites to reach the FA Cup semi-final ahead of their meeting with Leicester next week – but their manager is under fire from the fans.

Mudryk has been unable to help stem the tide of criticism levied at his boss either. Not even one year on from sacking Graham Potter, reports suggest that the club are already planning for life without Pochettino as well.

Among those linked with what could be a vacant hot seat come the summer, is Mudryk’s old manager Roberto De Zerbi. Only in place at Brighton for just over a year himself, the Italian has established himself as one of the top talents of the coaching world.

Outside of helping teams play above the sum of their combined parts, De Zerbi also has a pre-existing relationship with Mudryk, something hard to ignore among the links. It was De Zerbi who handed Mudryk his breakthrough at Shakhtar in 2021, and his stock continued to rise before the eventual big-money move was sealed.

The winger has plenty to thank De Zerbi for, and was not intent to let that go unsaid during his time in Ukraine. “Yes, I agree that it was my breakthrough year, it was also challenging and full of emotions,” he said after winning the club’s player of the year award in 2021. “Even though it’s a breakthrough year, I would like to make the next year even more successful.”

That he did, and it came largely from a phone call in the first summer under De Zerbi that changed everything. “To be honest, I almost didn’t believe my ears when he called,” Mudryk said of the conversation. “It was exciting and interesting, I realised that this was a new challenge.

“It’s very nice that Mister decided to call me on his first day in Ukraine. I still remember how I listened to him and delved into what he was saying as never before, and that’s what I still keep doing. I am glad that we talk and get along. He immediately told me that he was aware of the way I play, and he would make me unlock my potential.

“He also said that he trusted me completely. Mister’s words mean a lot to me as this is almost the main thing that I wanted to hear.”

The admiration is mutual. “Me and my staff have a special relationship [with Mudryk],” De Zerbi has said of the Chelsea ace. “He is like a son to us. I hope he stays on the bench and doesn’t play [when Brighton play Chelsea] but I love him. We hope the best for him… from the next game.

“For any young player it is more difficult to adapt to another country and another style of football. Chelsea have many big players and I think it is a normal situation for him, he has to adapt and to understand his life has changed but I think he is good, smart guy. He can become a top, top player.”

After the two sides faced off at Stamford Bridge in the back end of last season Mudryk was also quick to post about his former mentor online. “Nice to meet you again [red heart emoji]” he wrote on Instagram alongside and image of the pair embracing at full-time.

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