Chelsea legend Zola identifies Frank Lampard's potential replacement
Frank Lampard transfer news: Gianfranco Zola says Nathaniel Chalobah can replace Chelsea star
Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola believes Nathaniel Chalobah, a player currently under his tutelage at Watford, has the ability to become Frank Lampard's eventual successor at Stamford Bridge.
The 18-year-old midfielder is on loan at Vicarage Road from Chelsea to gain experience of regular first-team football away from Stamford Bridge, and has flourished during his time working with Zola.
Lampard, meanwhile, appears set to leave Chelsea at the end of the season following 12 glorious years at Stamford Bridge, and could depart as the record goalscorer in the club's history.
Should Lampard leave Chelsea, as expected, the focus will turn to who can replace the veteran at the heart of the Blues' midfield but, in Chalobah, they could already have the answer on their books.
Although Zola sees the England under-21 international as naturally more defensive than Lampard, the former can envisage Chalobah returning to Chelsea as the player most able to fill the void left by the 34-year-old.
"Frank is more like an offensive midfielder where he gets the ball and he scores important goals," Zola, who had a key influence on Lampard in the early stages of his Chelsea career, told BBC Sport.
"Nathaniel can be very offensive, obviously, but we try to give him the structure of more of a holding midfielder, who organises the play from the back.
"He can certainly play in the position that Frank plays but his best, in my opinion, will come playing in front of the defence."
Zola added: "Nathaniel could be the player who replaces Frank so, therefore, I try to give him everything I can in order to make him a better player."
Chalobah has scored four goals in 24 starts for Watford this season, with the Hornets placed third in the Championship - just three points behind second-placed Hull City.