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Mourinho 'greatest in world' – Lampard

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Chelsea's Frank Lampard

Chelsea's Frank Lampard

PA

Chelsea's Frank Lampard

The prospect of Jose Mourinho making an emotional return to Chelsea received resounding dressing-room support, with Frank Lampard describing the self-styled Special One as perhaps the "greatest manager in world football."

John-Obi Mikel, another senior player, described Chelsea as "crazy" for all its managerial upheaval, but is also hugely enthusiastic about the idea of Mourinho making his comeback this summer.

"He's a fantastic human being, on and off the pitch," said Mikel.

Negotiations remain ongoing but Mourinho's agent, Jorge Mendes, has estimated that there is now an "80pc" possibility of his client returning to Chelsea.

Lampard's chances of remaining at Stamford Bridge would certainly be improved by the arrival of Mourinho, with Rafael Benitez yesterday promising to start his vice-captain against Aston Villa on Sunday but again offering no guarantees for the Europa League final.

John Terry also now appears likely to be dropped for next Wednesday's final against Benfica, despite missing the Champions League final against Bayern Munich last season.

Lampard and Terry both still want to finish their careers at Chelsea and are excited by the possibility of a new start under Mourinho.

"I think it would be a great thing for the club," said Lampard. "He is certainly one of the greatest – if not the greatest – manager in world football."

Lampard also described Alex Ferguson as a managerial "god" and he believes that Mourinho is well placed to follow in his footsteps.

"We are competitive with Man United, we want to beat them and fans don't like them, but with Alex Ferguson maybe you have to look up and say what a great man and manager he is," said Lampard.

"I think he was, for the period of time he did it, the greatest. A lot of managers – the Jose Mourinhos of this world – are making a play for that and they have to do it as long as Fergie has."

Lampard stressed that he did not know whether Mourinho's potential return would aid his prospects at Chelsea but reiterated that he does not want to leave when his contract expires this summer. "I've always said that I wanted to spend all of my career here," he said.

Lampard (picturted below) is only one short of Bobby Tambling's all-time record of 202 Chelsea goals but, with only three games remaining this season, time is running out.

Benitez yesterday stressed that sentiment will not play a part in his selections for the remaining games.

"I have confidence he will do the record," said Benitez. "It means at least he can play one more game and, afterwards, we'll see what happens in the other two. If he can score against Aston Villa, it will be easier for me in the last two games.

"I will do what I have to do to win games. If, at the same time, I can help Frank, I will do it."

Benitez was similarly vague about Terry, who has been on the bench for the past three games and now appears to be fourth choice centre-back behind David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic.

The return this week from injury of Mikel gives Terry even less chance of starting against Benfica as Luiz could then move back into defence from his recent holding midfield role.

"The competition is really hard," said Benitez. "Cahill, Ivanovic, Luiz are all doing well too. Now we have four centre-backs who have to compete."

Asked specifically if his decision would be influenced by Terry missing Chelsea's last European final, Benitez said: "What I can say is that Lampard will play against Aston Villa. I cannot say anything about the final. I haven't decided yet."

Meanwhile, Real Madrid assistant coach Aitor Karanka defended Mourinho after the Portuguese was roundly booed by fans at the Bernabeu before their 6-2 thrashing of Malaga on Wednesday night.

Mourinho further inflamed the fans' anger with two fiery press conferences this week in which he criticised club captain Iker Casillas and centre-back Pepe and the fans made their feelings known.

Backing

Karanka, however, insisted: "We don't pay much attention to that. The fans express their feelings and we respect their views, but the coaching staff try to get the best performance out of the players."

Asked if Mourinho had given the half-time team talk, Karanka responded: "It was the same person that always gives it, the same guy that won the league last year."

Striker Gonzalo Higuain was also the victim of fan derision when he came on to replace Karim Benzema in the second half, but Karanka insisted the Argentinian still has the backing of the club.

"That's football. Last year the fans were shouting 'Pipa (Higuain's nick-name) please stay' after we won the league in Bilbao.

"We know he's not in the best form, but he has to keep on working. He knows what the coaching staff think of him."

Cristiano Ronaldo hit his 200th goal for Madrid in the demolition of Manuel Pellegrini's side, but also had a penalty saved by Willy Caballero.

The former Manchester United player, who has been linked with a return to his old club, has not signed a new contract with Real Madrid yet, with his current deal set to expire in 2015.

Karanka, however, said he believed the player would stay at the Bernabeu. at least until his current deal runs out. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent