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What Enzo Maresca has already said about Cole Palmer before Chelsea appointment as new plan clear

Former Manchester City academy boss Enzo Maresca
-Credit: (Image: Richard Sellers/Sportsphoto/Allstar via Getty Images)


One of the immediate draws to make ahead of Enzo Maresca's arrival at Chelsa is his past with Cole Palmer. During his year at the Manchester City academy - sandwiched between his first job in England as West Ham's assistant under Manuel Pellegrini and a brief period as Parma boss - the Italian worked with some of the best youth in the country.

His City Under-21 side won Premier League 2 for the first time in their history and did so comfortably. They won 17 of the 24 games, scoring a mammoth 79 times (the next best was 58) and conceding just 30. His team's goal difference was 33 better than the second best in the league.

From his squad that year there are already two players at Chelsea (Palmer and Romeo Lavia) with other Premier League names in James McAtee, Tommy Doyle, James Trafford, Morgan Rogers, and Oscar Bobb. Liam Delap is a Championship forward whilst Callum Doyle, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, and Samuel Edozie have just been promoted back to the top flight with the latter already having a year's first-team experience under his belt.

Undoubtedly a strong group, but Maresca left such a strong impression before his time at Parma that Pep Guardiola was willing to hand him a key role on his staff for the 2022/23 season. Since then Chelsea have spent the best part of £100million on two of Maresca's success stories to try and enhance their own prospects.

In Lavia, there is one of the most promising young midfielders in the world, capable of dribbling and passing through teams from deep. And Palmer surprised everyone by finishing as second top scorer behind Erling Haaland in the Premier League last year.

He wasn't granted much game time under Guardiola even with Maresca's involvement in the senior side but quickly became a target for top teams. Newcastle were keen on signing him previously before Leicester themselves planned an ambitious swoop following Maresca's appointment.

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Chelsea splashed out over £40million to bring him in eventually though and have been thoroughly rewarded for the work done by recruitment chief Joe Shields - who worked with Palmer at City as well as with Lavia in Manchester and Southampton. Now the quartet will be reunited.

Palmer will immediately be a player that Maresca turns to in his first season at the club. He scored 13 times in 16 games under the Italian, registering six assists as well. Only Delap scored more, though he also played additional matches and is a striker.

When Chelsea and Leicester came face-to-face earlier this season in the FA Cup Maresca was billed with stopping his former prodige. Mauricio Pochettino had the last laugh in an entertaining 4-2 win for the Blues at Stamford Bridge, but Maresca was keen to point out the development of Palmer before the game.

"I think people that know Cole, they don't see any change - in terms of the things that he's doing now, he was always doing," Maresca said. "The only difference is, unfortunately with City, he had many players like him so he struggled a little bit. At Chelsea now, he's found more space so he's showing himself, so Cole now is the player that everyone is watching."

As for if a move to Chelsea was the right move, Maresca replied, "I don't know to be honest, this is a question for Cole." He added: "But probably to decide to play every game, I said many times, we have players that unfortunately this year they didn't play too much so they come to me or the club to ask to leave.

"At the end they work every day not to be on the bench, they work every day to play and when you don't play, you are not happy. And with Cole, he decides to leave, with Chelsea, [so] he would play more minutes.

"With Cole, it was quite clear, if you see him every day in the training session or you see him when he plays some minutes with City. No one at City had any doubts about Cole as a player."

His messaging to the group he took over at City remained consistent as well. “Since the first day I joined the club, I said the same," he said during his time there. "I hope that I can help them understand how important it is to not waste the opportunity they have.

"They have a great chance in their hands and for them, it’s important to try 100 per cent to get that chance. This is a perfect time for them to learn, but you also have to think that you need to learn as soon as possible because the time is very quick. You need to learn as soon as possible if you want to do something important in the professional world.”

When explaining what he felt his role was at the club, Maresca said: "The main target is to try to help them understand what they need for the next step.

"The next step is professional football – hopefully with the first team, maybe Championship, maybe a different team from the Premier League. We need to help them to reach the next step. We have to work every day, and doing that we can help them a lot."

Maresca must now attempt to scale up his methods and bring success back to Stamford Bridge. Enhancing Palmer will be a challenge given just where he is currently at, but in a heavily positional structure aimed to get him into specific areas, Maresca will hope he can take the 22-year-old on again.