'Has the ability': Gary Neville thinks Chelsea have a 22-year-old player with absolutely huge potential

Gary Neville believes Reece James can become a better defender overall than Trent Alexander-Arnold if he stays clear of the treatment room.

Neville was asked to choose between the Chelsea and Liverpool players during a live stream on his Instagram.

Reece James against Trent Alexander-Arnold

We’ve had Pele versus Maradona, Lionel Messi versus Cristiano Ronaldo, Erling Haaland versus Kylian Mbappe, but James versus Alexander-Arnold is the newest rivalry in terms of English right-backs.

The two are amongst Europe’s very best in their position, let alone in the Premier League.

Photo by Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

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They are very much the present and future of club and country, with the pair set to challenge England’s right side for years to come.

James and Alexander-Arnold added to their personal duel at the national team’s stadium during the FA Cup final on Saturday.

Although they rarely directly came up against each other, the battle for full-back supremacy was certainly on.

Thomas Tuchel’s young gun had a terrific individual display, voted by Chelsea fans as the Player of the Match.

But it was Liverpool’s number 66 who ultimately finished the fixture as the winner.

Admittedly, Alexander-Arnold’s performance was excellent.

He demonstrated a full itinerary of different passes, whilst also sticking to his defensive duties pretty well.

Both he and James dispatched their penalties in the shoot-out, before Mason Mount’s miss-fire handed the trophy to Jurgen Klopp.

Neville weighs up the two defenders

So, Alexander-Arnold is 1-0 up in the duel with his compatriot, but who will eventually come out on top between the fellow countrymen?   

“Trent or Reece? That’s an interesting one, by the way,” said Neville.

Photo by Eddie Keogh – The FA/The FA via Getty Images

“Trent is far better on the ball. He’s better than everyone on the ball. He’s better than most, to be fair. Midfield players and wingers on the ball. 

“But I think Reece James, injury-free for a couple of seasons, could surpass Trent as an all-round fullback. He needs to stay fit for a few seasons. 

“I do think Trent has improved his defending, I would say in the last three to four weeks. He has been a lot more aggressive in getting to the ball. 

“I think, between them both, they are both outstanding. But Trent, at the moment, edges it and Reece has the ability to overtake.” 

It is a worrying sign that Alexander-Arnold has enhanced the side of his game that he’s often faced criticism for.

This is an area James certainly, at the moment, has one over the Liverpool player.

Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

The 22-year-old is pretty unbeatable in one-against-one situations.

Just ask Vinicius Jnr, who simply couldn’t get round the Chelsea gem during the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final.

His delivery in the final third isn’t bad either, but just not quite at Alexander-Arnold’s level yet.

However, as Neville rightly pointed out, avoid any more injuries, and Reece can easily exceed Trent potentially in the near future.

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Nathaniel is a football journalist who graduated from the University of Derby. He has worked at Burton Albion as part of their media team for two years. Nathaniel produces regular articles for the club’s official website and match-day programme. He covered the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup in Brittany and has reported from grounds ranging from non-league up to the Premier League.