Former Leicester City and Chelsea goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer believes that ex-teammate Danny Drinkwater is capable of successfully stepping up to a higher level amid reports of sustained interest from the defending Premier League champions.
Sky Sports revealed earlier this month that Chelsea were interested in reuniting Drinkwater with one-time Foxes midfield accomplice N'Golo Kante, with a notably vexed Antonio Conte still looking to strengthen his title-winning squad before the transfer window slams shut on 31 August.
The Blues have already secured the services of Willy Caballero, Antonio Rudiger, Alvaro Morata and Tiemoue Bakayoko, although the latter is set to miss the start of the 2017-18 season as he continues to recuperate following surgery on a minor knee injury.
Nemanja Matic was allowed to join prospective title rivals Manchester United for £40m ($52m) last week, while the likes of Nathaniel Chalobah, Nathan Ake, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mario Pasalic have also been permitted to leave.
Such departures - coupled with the likely loan exit of Lewis Baker - have left Chelsea looking particularly light in the midfield area, with only young Kyle Scott included on the bench as cover for Kante and Cesc Fabregas during Sunday's (6 August) Community Shield loss to Arsenal at Wembley.
The likes of Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Everton contract rebel Ross Barkley have also been linked with moves to west London as Conte looks to increase his quota of homegrown players and pad out a thin squad ahead of a return to the Champions League. That aforementioned interest in Drinkwater, meanwhile, was said to have intensified after Chelsea were rebuffed in their pursuit of Bayern Munich teenager Renato Sanches.
Schwarzer played with Drinkwater during Leicester's fairytale 2015-16 campaign after being released by Chelsea and clearly thinks the three-cap England schemer, who missed Friday's final pre-season friendly victory over Borussia Monchengladbach with a thigh strain set to rule him out of the opening game of the season at Arsenal, is capable of making the grade at Stamford Bridge.
"He's not a Matic that's for sure, he's more of a creative sort of player," he told talkSPORT when asked if Drinkwater would fit the bill under Conte. "I think at Leicester last season you saw without having Kante next to him, he struggled - as did the rest of the team. Danny Drinkwater is a very talented young man and has done incredibly well at Leicester.
"I think he's capable of making the step up. Whether or not he's someone who will play week-in week-out, whether he's good enough to make that step up to be a mainstream player in Chelsea's first XI, we'll only know once he makes that step if it happens. But he's definitely got the ability."
Drinkwater has made 218 appearances for Leicester since joining from Manchester United in 2012, 43 of which came last season. The 27-year-old only signed a new lucrative four-year contract said to be worth £90,000-a-week in August 2016, although The Mirror recently reported that he was willing to inform the club of his desire to move on.
It has also been suggested that Chelsea initially wanted to sign both Kante and Drinkwater in an ambitious double deal last summer.