Jose Mourinho’s spell as Chelsea manager gave the Premier League a significant shot in the arm. Most were sad to see him leave the Bridge in September, a real loss to English football.
Even in his nine months away from the game, his influence hung over proceedings. In particular, his replacement Avram Grant, who could never quite escape the constant comparisons between his personality/performance/attitude and that of the Portuguese coach.
Mourinho took up the Inter Milan job in June, following the failure to progress to the latter stages of the Champions league under Roberto Mancini. Then, if European triumph is the minimum requirement, the ex-Porto coach will be keen to surround himself with players who admire him, and that he trusts such as Lampard, Ricardo Carvalho and Didier Drogba.
He also showed last week that he hadn’t lost his clever tactics when it comes to the transfer market. When asked about Lampard’s proposed move to the San Siro, Mourinho said ‘I am 100 per cent sure he will be playing here in 2009-10. This season? I don’t think so’. As many commentators have said, in short he means, sell me this player, or he will leave for nothing in a year.
Talks over a new deal for Lampard have been on-going for two years without success and Chelsea face the prospect of the England international leaving for free next summer if the matter is not resolved.
Moving abroad does offer the chance to develop as a footballer. Players such as David Platt, Kevin Keegan, Paul Ince and even Paul Gasgoine have all gone abroad to Spain and Italy, thrived and improved. Yet, at 30 years old can Lampard develop anymore?
At club level over the last 4 years he has hit the heights and put in excellent performance after outstanding performance, last year scoring 15 goals in 32 appearances in all competitions for his club. He is happy in London, with a family and close friends. A firm fans favourite. So why would he leave?
Well, a quick look around will remind him of the overflowing quantity of midfield talent in the Chelsea dressing room a rejuvenated Micheal Ballack as well as Claude Makelele, Michael Essien, Joe Cole, John Mikel Obi, Florent Malouda, and now Portuguese playmaker Deco. This means that competition for places will be fierce this season, which is ideal for Scolari, but perhaps a headache for Lampard.
Added to this, his loss of form for England and the undeserved and ludicrous abuse he receives when he does pull on the national shirt, may add strength to Mourinho’s encouragements.
Luiz Felipe Scolari took his first training session as Chelsea manager on Monday. So where does all this leave Chelsea ahead of the new season?
The Brazilian coach, like ’the special one’, is a big personality and can unite a squad behind him. He was extremely popular with the Portuguese players during his spell as national coach, and they were robustly loyal to him. He may then be able to persuade Lampard and Drogba to give ‘Project Chelski’ another go, I my opinion he will need to if his first season in the Premiership is to a successful one.
For the squad the arrival of Scolari’s ‘wipe the slate clean’ approach does offer a chance to prove themselves, it could also spell the end for some if they fail to impress.
Andriy Shevchenko seems like he has one foot on a plane back to the comfy surroundings of AC Milan, where he remains a hero. It has been a frustrating two seasons for the Ukranian striker, and it may be in Scolari’s best interests to let him go. At the other end of the spectrum, Shaun Wright-Phillips has another opportunity to establish himself and prove that his undoubted talent can thrive on the highest level. His hard work rate and pace fits in well with the type of football that Scolari’s teams play.
For others like Florent Malouda, Nicolas Anelka, Salomon Kalou and Claudio Pizarro they will need to prove their worth to the big Brazilian quickly if they are to escape being moved on in January. Scolari will look to build a squad of his own and you get the feeling that laziness and petulance, often displayed by Mousier Anelka, will not be tolerated.
If Chelsea are to challenge Manchester United on all fronts this season, and not just threaten to upset like last year, then they will need to secure the future of key players such as Lampard and Drogba.
A rough look at a potential Chelsea team, if kept fit, looks formidable, especially if the goal scoring talents of Samual Eto’o are added or the incredibly gifted Kaka from AC Milan
Ultimately, Abramovic will need to be patient and let his new manager build a squad that will make Chelsea a successful club for the future. The question is, can he alter his reputation for interfering in team policy, and let a genuinely world class coach freely get on with the job in hand?
So now its over to you. Should Lampard leave Chelsea? What effect will Luiz Felipe Scolari have on Chelsea? How would your Chelsea side line up?