Joe Cole and Rio Ferdinand praised a “sublime” performance from Reece James against AC Milan while manager Graham Potter said he could be a "Chelsea legend".
James set up Chelsea’s second goal and scored their third in a 3-0 win over AC Milan.
He also shackled Milan forward Rafael Leao, particularly in the second half when the Serie A side hardly threatened.
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Debate has raged over the last few weeks over whether James, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker or Kieran Trippier should play at right-back for England.
But former Chelsea winger Cole and ex-England defender Rio Ferdinand were impressed with what they saw from James against Milan.
“Reece James was sublime all night,” Cole said on BT Sport.
“Not enough superlatives to say about him.”
Ferdinand added: “What I loved about Reece James in the second half is he was aggressive with Rafael Leao. He said ‘I’ll defend you and also be an effective player at the other end of the pitch'.
"The difference with Reece James, he wants the fight. On the ball I believe he’s equally as good as Trent Alexander-Arnold and defensively right now he’s a lot sharper. He defends better than Trent in one v ones situations. That’s the difference between them at the moment. It’s going to be a great battle and a great subplot to the Premier League at the moment.
“At the moment Reece is having a great spell and is ahead of Trent in my eyes, but that could change because there are ups and downs.”
Asked about James' man-of-the-match display, Chelsea boss Potter said: "Reece is just a fantastic player and a young player so he’s developing all the time. He’ll get better and better as we go.
"I’ve really enjoyed working with him. He’s got a lot to offer and he can play in any game in the world so my job is to help him reach his potential because his potential is beyond the sky.
"We love him and he’s so important for us. His potential is he could be a Chelsea legend and that’s the level he has, but for that to happen he has to be part of a successful team and that’s what we’re working towards.”
Chelsea’s win moves them up to second place in Group E, one point behind Salzburg with three games played.
Cole believes the performance showed they are moving in the “right direction” under new manager Graham Potter.
“There was a massive gulf in class, it was a routine win and it was disappointing from Milan, they threw the towel in with 20 or 30 minutes to go. They got well beaten.
“When you have a juggernaut like Milan coming to town and you get a routine win, it shows you are going in the right direction.”
The only negative on the night for Chelsea was an injury to defender Wesley Fofana after he scored the opening goal.
But the enforced change did not impact the result as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and James struck in the second half.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates scoring for Chelsea
Image credit: Getty Images
“There was a lot of pressure going into this game as they hadn’t started well in the Champions League,” said Ferdinand.
“You have to get points on the board at home. All the right buttons are being pressed at the moment and momentum is key and they are starting to build that.
“It’s a good time, you can sense the crowd are happy with what they are seeing and it’s a step in the right direction.”
Chelsea travel to Milan next week in the Champions League for the return fixture.
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