Bring Jose back and we’ll win the title, Lampard tells Chelsea
The great players rarely dwell on past successes and, fresh from winning the Europa League, Frank Lampard returned to Stamford Bridge to sign a new contract and predict that Jose Mourinho can again make Chelsea the best team in England.
Mourinho’s reappointment at Stamford Bridge should be announced in the first half of June, with Lampard adamant that Chelsea's next challenge is to regain the ruthless consistency that made them the only team to win consecutive Premier League titles against Manchester United.
“Jose’s the greatest manager in our history and he changed the whole belief of the club and made us into a winning club,” Lampard said. “It will lift the fans and it will lift the players. Those who haven’t worked with him before will understand that he’ll give them an extra edge.
“Our Premier League consistency has not been good enough in this last two years. We have to address that. We need to get back to that battering ram, winning mentality we had before. It’s a bit like a magic recipe that’s hard to explain. It’s a lot of mental work. You have to be able to go out even when not at your best and grind out results.”
As ever at Chelsea, the new manager will receive extravagant backing in the transfer market and, with a deal £20million deal for Andre Schurrle already agreed, bids can be expected for Edinson Cavani, Marouane Fellaini and Southampton defender Luke Shaw. Rafael Benítez, the outgoing manager, claimed yesterday that Chelsea would spend £100million on “three or four” new signings. The upheavals at the two Manchester clubs should further enhance Chelsea’s chances.
“We can do better,” Lampard said. “Manchester United and Manchester City have raised the bar but we are all in a different situation this year. It will be difficult [for United]. Who wants to follow Alex Ferguson? We want to jump above United. It’s going to be a huge change for them and whether they can adapt remains to be seen. I believe we have the strength to do it.
“There’s a happy medium somewhere and we must certainly get back to being a bit more dogged. It doesn’t mean taking away the beautiful football but you have to have a balance. It’s a huge priority to be challenging for the league again next season.”
Lampard stressed that he had not been told whether Mourinho would return but hoped that the next manager can finally bring stability to Chelsea. “That would be great – that’s the ideal scenario. We have changed managers and been very successful. No one is going to do 26 years like Fergie but if we can get a bit of stability for a while that would help the cause.”
After becoming the club’s record goalscorer on Saturday and captaining Chelsea to their Europa League triumph against Benfica on Wednesday, agreement on a new one-year contract has added a further gloss to Lampard’s week. His agent had claimed previously that “in no circumstances” would his client be offered a new deal but talks have been continuing since January. Lampard did, however, explore other options, including the Los Angeles Galaxy.
“There was a time around January when I thought I might have to move on,” Lampard said. “It was funny time for me and the club were looking to move forward. I wasn’t ever fed up with the club. It was a difficult time because of the manager situation. Maybe there wasn’t so much communication and then things get their own legs. When I’ve spoken to the club they have been brilliant.
“There were several other options, routes I could’ve gone down and I had to look at them. My first choice was to stay here. I didn’t come completely close to anything else to the point where there were agreements.
“I’m very settled here with my two kids around the corner. I love living in the area, love the club and have a great relationship with everyone here. Who wouldn’t want to stay here?”
Lampard also spoke with England manager Roy Hodgson about the implications of his next decision. “He was brilliant with me. He said if I was playing at the level required than he’d be happy to pick me. He understood also the difficulties of playing further afield.”
Hodgson admitted that Lampard’s future had been “a worry” but hailed the recent landmark of scoring 203 club goals from midfield. “Frank’s qualities are eternal,” Hodgson said.
“It is an incredible record that will never be equalled. We talked a lot about Sir Alex and not seeing his like again. You could say the same thing about Frank.”
Lampard’s achievements were certainly brought into sharp focus yesterday when 203 balls were laid on the Stamford Bridge pitch in the exact place that he scored each of his goals.
As Lampard inspected the various positions, some vivid memories came flooding back. “It does help it sink in,” he said. “I don’t know how I got that many goals. It’s surreal. The goals are all there in the memory bank.”
Despite turning 35 next month, Lampard is confident that more success lies ahead. “I’ve got belief that I can go on not just for this extra year but further than that.
Trophies get harder to come by. I would love to win the Premier League again. I love goals. I am addicted to the idea of scoring from midfield. You can’t beat the feeling of scoring.”
Rafa's legacy to Mourinho
Fernando Torres playing with a smile
Torres is now simultaneously part of teams who hold the World Cup, European Championship, Champions League and Europa League. He is also playing again with confidence and that was evident in his goal on Wednesday
A first trophy for the new generation
Whereas the Champions League triumph was the result of one last push from the old guard, this was the first major trophy at Chelsea in which the new core has spearheaded the team. Wednesday will inspire them to further success
A decline in player power
A potentially lasting characteristic of the Benitez era has been to successfully introduce rotation and end the old certainty about John Terry and Frank Lampard playing every major match
A lowering of expectation
Benitez has done well, no doubt, but has also delivered a masterclass of lowering expectations. Mourinho will fancy his chances of finishing next season with rather more than a top four finish and the Europa League
A defensively disciplined David Luiz
The man who Gary Neville famously described by as "looking like he was being controlled by a 10-year-old on a PlayStation... has noticeably developed more defensive and positional awareness. It will still be fascinating to see how he would be handled by Mourinho.