Chelsea manager Phil Scolari believes Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel could command a permanent first-team place for years to come.
The Blues' boss says his 21-year-old enforcer is the unsung hero of his squad and that he will only continue to grow and improve.
Mikel's penalty miss against Burnley sent Chelsea crashing out of the Carling Cup, but Scolari insists he still has the world at his feet.
Scolari told The Sun: "I knew he would be a big part of my team.
"With Claude Makelele leaving I was sure Mikel could be the player to play in his position in the future.
"When Makelele was here he was the one playing because he was the more experienced player. But now is the time for Mikel.
"If we don't give him the chance to play, how will he get the experience? He's had maybe 20 games for me and played 18 very well.
"He's so young, only 21, and has learned a lot with Makelele and Michael Essien."
Mikel joined Chelsea for £16m from Lyn in 2006 and Scolari says his versatility will be a key component of his young star's development.
"He looks like he belongs in the position, knows more about his position and is a more experienced player," Scolari said.
"Mikel is like a lot of African players who have what all coaches want which is power but also style where they are comfortable with the ball, can control it and dribble with it."
The Nigerian also received praise from Nigeria boss Shaibu Amodu who has known Mikel from a young age.
Amodu told The Sun: "Mikel was my boy before he became a star.
"But he was quite small when he was 14 and when I saw him playing later for one of our youth teams I had to ask 'Is that little John Obi?'
"He has grown, become stronger and his full potential is just beginning to materialise. Chelsea are looking after him very well.
"He can be one of the best players in the world and has a great man in Scolari to help him achieve that."