Tattoos are what keep Chelsea and England defender Ben Chilwell focused and grounded. Just below his left knee are 1, 2, 3 and 5 – the numbers embroidered on his red Three Lions cap as the 1,235th player to represent his country.
On her left arm are the words “Halfway” and she explains: “Because you’re not where you want to be. You’re always halfway.”
Then Chilwell added with a smile: “And because it’s halfway up my arm!”
On his right arm is a picture of the Champions League trophy, lifted back with Chelsea in 2021 — but does that leave some room for a potential Premier League title and World Cup?
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Chelwell said: “There are a few places. The World Cup will be a bit bigger than that though.”
At 25 years old, he has an impressively wise head on his young shoulders and oozes confidence.
This comes as Manchester United’s Luke Shaw is in talks to reclaim his left-back spot in England’s squad for Qatar despite eight months of injury hell.
Chilwell – signed from Leicester for £50m in August 2020 – missed the majority of last season after rupturing a partial cruciate in his right knee against Juventus in the Champions League in November.
He felt it shatter again during a training session on Christmas Day and had surgery days later.
Seven months down the line, Chilwell is now fully back — currently with the team on their pre-season tour of America — and already looking to the biggest stages.
Asked if he ever worried about missing out on the World Cup, he said: “It wasn’t about not being selected, it was about ‘working harder so you get selected’. Makes me so motivated to do those little one percents.
“We are four or five months away from the World Cup now so if I play well I am sure I will be in the squad.
“That’s my mental headspace. I’ve dreamed of playing in the World Cup and knowing it’s just around the corner is more motivation.
“It will be the highlight of not only my career, but my life.”
After playing 90 minutes in the Champions League final win over Manchester City in May 2021, Chilwell then spent the entire Euros on the bench, not helped by a positive Covid test.
Rival Shaw scored in the final, losing just one game. Blues boss Thomas Tuchel claimed Chilwell returned “mentally exhausted”.
Chilwell added: “Mental fatigue is probably the best way to describe it. I was trying too hard then.”
Another difficult time could have been the exit of owner Roman Abramovich but Chelwell said: “We’ve got new ownership, they want to be involved. The club is in a good place.”