The worst-kept secret of the summer has finally been revealed after Frank Lampard was unveiled as Chelsea manager.
Maurizio Sarri departed the London side last month despite his Europa League success. His replacement will be the former Derby County boss Lampard who guided the side to the Championship play-offs.
Lampard has come full circle. The Englishman spent 13 years at Chelsea during his playing days and enjoyed enormous success. He is the club’s top goalscorer of all time and won the UEFA Champions League, the Europa League, four FA Cups, and three Premier League titles. He is undoubtedly a club legend at Stamford Bridge so his appointment was greeted with almost unanimous praise.
But it will prove a tough challenge for Lampard. The 41-year-old is vastly inexperienced in the role with just one season at Derby County under his belt. He enters a club which is not without its own problems – despite that Europa League success in May. Eden Hazard has departed for Real Madrid and the club can’t sign a replacement given Chelsea’s transfer ban.
Lampard was a Chelsea legend in his playing days but he has the odds stacked against him in the dugout. Let’s look at how some others have fared managing the clubs they made their names at as a player.
For inspiration, Lampard needs to look at another goalscoring midfielder who managed his adopted home. Kenny Dalglish was already a Liverpool legend when he took over as manager in 1985. Initially a player-manager, Dalglish led the Reds to three league titles and two FA Cups in a five-year spell. There’s a reason he’s called King Kenny on Merseyside.
Outside of the UK, Zinedine Zidane deserves a place in this category. The French playmaker was an exceptional player who lit up the Santiago Bernabeu during a five-year spell at Real Madrid. A decade after retirement, Zidane took over the first-team at Real where he further cemented his status. The Frenchman became the first manager to win three consecutive UEFA Champions League titles and added one La Liga crown to that tally.
But perhaps the best example of all is the late, great Johan Cruyff. The Dutch maestro is wildly considered amongst the most influential figures in the sport’s history. It started during his playing days at both AFC Ajax and FC Barcelona. The Total Football mantra continued throughout his career and really took hold when he entered the dugout. His Barcelona side of the 1990s is the stuff of legend. But his influence was acutely felt back at Ajax, so much so that the club’s stadium was named after him in 2017.
Honourable mentions must also be given to Diego Simeone, Kevin Keegan, and George Graham.
But not every former player can continue their legacy in the dugout. Even Kenny Dalglish stuttered during his second spell as Liverpool boss. One example which easily comes to mind is Alan Shearer. The top goalscorer in Premier League history was a certified Newcastle United legend when he retired from playing in 2006. The Geordie great returned to St. James’ Park in May 2009 for an eight-match run. The hope was that Shearer would help steer the club away from relegation but it wasn’t to be. Shearer won just one of his eight matches in the hot seat as Newcastle missed out on survival by one point.
Graeme Souness didn’t exactly live up to his playing standards as a manager. The Reds had ten consecutive top-two finishes before Souness took over in 1991. Two sixth-place and one eighth-place finish followed for Souness’ before his 1994 dismissal.
Some special credit must also be given to international managers. Diego Maradona is an Argentinean playing legend who led a wonderful squad to a 4-0 defeat to Germany in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Bulgarian legend Hristo Stoichkov is another who deserves special credit. His conduct as manager of the national team caused three key players to retire prematurely.
Frank Lampard faces a tough season at Stamford Bridge. Owner Roman Abramovich isn’t known for his patience with Lampard being his sixteenth managerial appointment. The transfer situation will also complicate things, especially given the weaknesses in Chelsea’s squad.
A top-four finish would surely represent a decent debut in the Premier League for Lampard. They are the fifth-favourites at 5/4 to do just that on Betway as of 5 July. Arsenal are lagging behind at 6/4 with Manchester United at 6/5. It promises to be an interesting battle between Lampard’s Chelsea and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United.
The battle of the former players will add fuel to the top-four contest. The Norwegian’s first season at Old Trafford showed that there will be ups and downs for Lampard in his first big job. Let’s hope there are more ups for his and Chelsea’s sakes.