Chelsea forward Cole Palmer has emerged as a Player of the Year contender thanks to a dazzling campaign that left Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola to rue what might have been ahead of their reunion in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final.

Palmer is enjoying a breakthrough season following his surprise move from City on transfer deadline day in September.

The 21-year-old scored four times in Chelsea's 6-0 rout of Everton on Monday, showing why he is nicknamed 'Cold Palmer' with an ice-cool penalty after refusing to let team-mate Nicolas Jackson take the kick.

Palmer's ruthless penalty prowess would have come in handy for City, who were beaten by Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday after a shoot-out that featured misses from Bernardo Silva and Mateo Kovacic.

While Palmer's old club were stunned by that painful loss, Chelsea will face City at Wembley in buoyant mood after his latest highlight reel performance against Everton.

Given licence to roam from his nominal starting position on the right of Chelsea's front three, Palmer has starred with lethal finishing and a creative touch that has produced nine Premier League assists this season.

Palmer has netted 23 times in all competitions this term, including 20 in 28 league appearances to make him the joint top-scorer alongside City's Erling Haaland.

It is unlikely he would have matched those impressive statistics if he had stayed at City, where Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Jeremy Doku blocked his path to progress from promising academy graduate to first-team regular.

Instead of a bit-part role with City, Palmer's emergence as Chelsea's most influential player has been the brightest spot in a difficult campaign for the west Londoners.

Palmer has remained polite about the end of his 13-year association with City, but there can be little doubt knocking out the FA Cup holders would carry extra significance for the forward.

"To make the decision to come to Chelsea was a big one for me and my family, but I just wanted to play football. I'm thankful to Chelsea for the opportunity. I'm buzzing," Palmer said.

He behaves like a top scorer

Beaten by Liverpool in the League Cup final in February, Chelsea are chasing their first domestic silverware since the 2018 FA Cup.

Another virtuoso Palmer display will be vital to under-fire Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino's hopes of remaining in contention to win his first trophy in England.

"He is showing that the club made the right decision signing him. He's a player who had the capacity to score goals when he was at City. It doesn't surprise us," Pochettino said.

"The way he's adapted, playing and performing is fantastic. He behaves like a top scorer. It's amazing for the team and him."

Palmer can also remind Guardiola of the contentious decision that has come back to haunt the Spaniard.

Eye-catching goals for City in the Community Shield against Arsenal and the UEFA Super Cup against Sevilla seemed to cement Palmer as a certainty to follow in Foden's footsteps as a homegrown prodigy.

But, unwilling to accept Palmer's desire for more regular playing time, Guardiola took Chelsea's £42 million ($52 million) offer.

With City hampered by injuries to Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne for significant periods this season, Palmer, who has 11 goals in his last six games, would have been a more than adequate replacement as a scorer and creator.

City have battled back to the top of the Premier League, but Palmer robbed them of two important points with his last-gasp penalty in the 4-4 draw between the teams in November.

Palmer, who has won two England caps, was not involved in the recent Euro 2024 warm-up friendlies against Brazil and Belgium due to injury.

But his brilliant form has put him firmly in contention for a place in Gareth Southgate's squad.

If Palmer's FA Cup and European Championship dreams come true, Pochettino is likely to be sitting more comfortably, while Guardiola is left with only regrets.