Chelsea's State of Play: A Transfer Ban and Frank Lampard as Manager?

Dean Jones@DeanJonesBRFootball Insider at Bleacher ReportJune 4, 2019

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 31: Derby Manager Frank Lampard applauds the crowd after the Carabao Cup Fourth Round match between Chelsea and Derby County at Stamford Bridge on October 31, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images)
Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

Maurizio Sarri's tenure at Chelsea is drawing to a close, and the club suddenly find themselves in an unenviable position. 

They now face the task of appointing a manager to replace the Italian while a transfer ban hangs over them and their best player—Eden Hazard—prepares to sign for Real Madrid

A few months ago, as supporters turned on Sarri, the prospect of the head coach leaving did not seem to be a bad thing. 

But now he is going on his own terms, with a UEFA Europa League winner's medal in his pocket and a Carabao Cup final spot and third-placed finish in the Premier League on his CV. And despite signing a three-year contract 12 months ago, he wants to go back to Italy and join Juventus.

A deal could be concluded this week, and no one can blame him for such a decision. As he prepares to walk away, though, where do Chelsea turn next?

Gabriele Romano @gabriro91

#Juventus-#Sarri just a matter of time: the latest https://t.co/n2JKRGUXEt

A few names have been mentioned, with Frank Lampard, Laurent Blanc, Jose Mourinho, Massimiliano Allegri, Nuno Espirito Santo, Javi Gracia and Steve Holland among those.

And while there is still no clear favourite, Chelsea sources have told Bleacher Report how some influential figures within the club believe this may be the perfect moment to appoint Lampard as manager.

Is he the best man for the job? Probably not. Is he the most qualified? Definitely not. But is he the right man for this job right now? Maybe.

There is a fear among some at Chelsea that a two-window transfer ban is inevitable, so delaying it through appeal would merely cause further problems down the line.

It is with that in mind that Lampard has become such a genuine contender, ahead of some figures clearly more prepared for such a job.

The former midfielder—a club legend who would be adopted by supporters in much the same way Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has at Old Trafford—will have lower expectations than if he were to become Chelsea boss at any other time. A bond between fans and manager has certainly been lacking since Sarri arrived.

Lampard would likely be given more time and sympathy from fans than anyone else if Chelsea are heading into a new season unable to make signings and without Hazard.

There is also a feeling his appointment is almost set in stone at some stage within the next few years anyway, so this might actually be a good opportunity to test the water.

Essentially, appointing the 40-year-old at such a tough time could be seen as a free hit. If he fails, blame the circumstances. His reputation would most likely be unharmed.

Lampard's first experience of management last season with Derby County, in which he led them to the Championship play-off final, was admirable. But there is a feeling he could embrace Chelsea's youth talent and build a strong squad mentality that could help them through a transitional period. 

The ex-England international can also help fill a void during a tricky time behind the scenes, as Petr Cech returns to the club from Arsenal in a role that will see him liaise between management and the boardroom. 

Lampard would also be expected to bring Jody Morris as his assistant—a man who has in-depth knowledge of the players coming through the academy.

Sarrismo™ @Blue_Footy

Jody Morris on Chelsea academy: "I don't think there's an academy in this country that's better. But it doesn't look like that on paper bcos of the amount of players who're not playing in the first team. The players are good enough, but the managers are not aware of them" https://t.co/4rzfMlI3sc

Away from Lampard, other managers are being considered. Blanc has been discussed in the past by the Stamford Bridge board and is currently available. He could be a good appointment in terms of balancing the side's return to Champions League football.

Watford's Gracia has also emerged as a candidate, according to Mark Ogden of ESPN, due to his coaching techniques and impressive record over the past 18 months.

Similarly, Wolves chief Nuno is said to have impressed people at Chelsea by exceeding expectations through good coaching and extensive use of contacts.

England assistant manager Holland was touted as the man to replace Sarri earlier this year when his job was under threat, though that was only ever going to be a short-term plan and he is not likely to be considered as full-time boss.

Mourinho is all but out of the running, despite some links, as sources at Chelsea are convinced there is no going back over old ground again.

Bookmakers in the UK hold Lampard as the favourite, though, and while there is uncertainty among some at Stamford Bridge over whether that would be the right decision, it is beginning to look like a choice that makes most sense in the current circumstances.