FRANK LAMPARD has lauded the man-management credentials of former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho ahead of the expected second coming of the Special One this summer.
Midfielder Lampard was part of Mourinho's successful side between July 2004 and September 2007, when the Portuguese left in acrimony before achieving success at Inter Milan and Real Madrid, who last night announced that the 50-year-old will leave the Spanish giants at the end of this season by mutual agreement.
Asked what makes Mourinho so successful, Lampard said: "It's a presence and an aura and a way with people. He galvanises people. His own self-confidence reflects back on his teams. He did that to me personally.
"Tactically, he's fantastic. He's very astute. As a team he sets you up brilliantly.
"But what he does is he gets the best out of players and gets this togetherness that I'd never known until he came to the club and I haven't seen it again since then.
"He might rub people up the wrong way. (But) as a manager, he's brilliant with his team, tactically, he's brilliant with individuals and I think he's brilliant with the press.
"I know it creates a storm, but he does protect his players."
Put to him that a reunion will end in tears after the messy divorce six years ago, Lampard insisted he was sorry to see Mourinho leave.
"I wasn't fed up with it," said Lampard, the club's record goalscorer who signed a one-year contract extension last week.
"He made me believe I was better than I was at the time. I thought I was a decent player, but he said to me, 'Listen, you can really get to the top' and he made me believe it. I tried to take it on and do it.
"I've had really good managers and different managers at times. It's the ones that get the best out of you, individually.
"Mourinho was the best. For me he was. He brought my confidence to a level it had never been."
Mourinho could succeed interim boss Rafael Benitez, who steered Chelsea to Europa League glory and third place in the Premier League, confirmed by a 2-1 defeat of Everton on Sunday.
Petr Cech hopes for a swift decision, with Benitez taking charge of the Blues for the final time on this week's tour to the United States. The goalkeeper said: "The earlier he can be here, he can start work on things and not leave it for the last moment.
"Every summer is important. If you have a bad summer it can have consequences for the whole season."
Whether Mourinho is part of the future or not, Lampard will be.
Last week he agreed to extend his 12-year stay at Stamford Bridge for a further 12 months, capping a week which saw him surpass Bobby Tambling as the club's record goalscorer, with 203, and lift the Europa League trophy in Amsterdam.
He scored twice in the win at Aston Villa, 10 games after moving to 200 goals against his former club West Ham.
The 34-year-old spent the first quarter of 2013 expecting to leave Chelsea this summer, believing the club and owner Roman Abramovich wanted to look to the future, and it was only latterly that he knew he would be retained.
Lampard will be 35 in June but believes he can play at the top level for three more years and was approached by other Premier League clubs.
"There were a couple of opportunities," he added. "(But) I can't imagine playing for anyone else after being 12 years at Chelsea. I'm not sure I could've done that."
Whoever the next Chelsea manager is, he will be the 10th permanent boss in 10 years under Abramovich.
Externally, Chelsea are considered a dysfunctional unit as a result of the hire-and-fire policy, yet it has reaped rewards which Lampard attributes largely to the collective strength of the squad.
Lampard, John Terry, Cech and others bought into the Chelsea way.
"When things change so often, you do need a strong spine and a strong core," Lampard said.
"It's a dressing room that's strong and together. If we didn't have that I don't think we would've put up with the changes so well.
"With us, as a group, we don't really know when we're beaten. Looking back, I think that's what will define our team."