After just one season in management with Derby County, Premier League great Frank Lampard has returned to Chelsea as successor to Maurizio Sarri.
The Blues’ record goalscorer has signed a three-year contract as the new head coach at Stamford Bridge and met global media in a press conference later the same day it was announced.
During his sole season as Derby boss, Lampard steered the Rams to the Championship play-off final and just fell short of getting them promoted to the Premier League.
After 648 games and 211 goals in 13 years between 2001 and 2014, Lampard is arguably Chelsea’s greater ever player. He surpassed all other midfielders – including contemporary Steven Gerrard – and holds the record for most Premier League goals from that area of the pitch with 177.
Lampard’s trophy laden spell in West London saw him help the Blues to UEFA Champions League and Europa League crowns in consecutive years. He also won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and the League Cup twice as a player at the Bridge.
Only Ron Harris, Peter Bonetti and long-time teammate John Terry have played more games for Chelsea than Lampard. His status as a Blues icon is beyond dispute.
Given Chelsea have appointed some of the biggest coaching names in football since Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich took control of the club in 2003, including Jose Mourinho, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti, relative novice Lampard is something of a departure from the norm.
He returns to the Bridge as boss against a backdrop of a transfer embargo and the departure of Eden Hazard – the only man to win Chelsea player of the year more times than Lampard.
These strictures aren’t expected to hamper him too badly as Lampard is 5/4 to repeat predecessor Sarri’s top four finish, according to the latest Premier League betting with bet365. The Blues are also 25/1 to win the title and 3/1 to lift a major trophy in 2019-20.
That ban on transfers may actually allow Lampard and the backroom team he brings with him from Derby to do what many Chelsea fans have wanted – promote youth. Their academy is one of the finest in Europe, yet the path from there to the Blues’ first-team has been blocked for many years.
Lampard has already done his bit for Chelsea youngsters in taking midfielder Mason Mount and Canadian-born defender Fikayo Tomori on loan last season. Both were regulars at the Rams, with the latter named Derby’s player of the year.
With Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek to come back after lay-offs and Tammy Abraham having a prolific season in the Championship with Aston Villa last term, the Blues squad could have a very young look to it under Lampard.
His first competitive game in charge of Chelsea is their Premier League opener at Manchester United on Sunday, 11 August. The Blues then contest the UEFA Super Cup as the holders of the Europa League against Champions League winners Liverpool.