Chelsea boss Frank Lampard believes Jose Mourinho is as good a manager as he has ever been, insisting he respects his former boss despite recent spats.
Mourinho’s Tottenham are top of the Premier League ahead of this weekend’s fixtures, just two points clear of Chelsea.
The Portuguese has enjoyed huge success throughout his career but struggled towards the end of his spell at Manchester United and took time to find his feet at Spurs.
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The two managers clashed on the touchline in their League Cup meeting in September and last year Mourinho suggested Lampard had used former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte’s tactics to beat Spurs in the league.
But Lampard, who won two Premier League titles under Mourinho at Stamford Bridge, played down the incidents and said the Portuguese was still a top manager.
“You don’t get a record as decorated as Jose Mourinho has as a manager without being a very talented coach,” he said on Friday.
“For all of us the game is so reactionary at the moment, particularly in the modern era, with social media reactions, that form will always be judged very harshly for any manager.”
Lampard, who is in his second season in charge at Chelsea, said he was not surprised by anything management threw at him.
“I’ve got respect for Jose as a manager and I think that’s just how it is,” he said. “I didn’t take any offence to the talk of Antonio Conte’s system or whatever.”
“Jose can have his opinions and it’s not a problem,” he added. “I’ve got respect for him and it’s nothing contentious for me.”
Lampard said his relationship with Mourinho, forged in the Portuguese boss’ first spell at Stamford Bridge, had changed now they were both managing top clubs.
“I think just naturally now when we are doing the cutthroat end of being managers of these big clubs that are rivals, I think it does change the relationship, not in a bad way,” he said.
“I’ve got no problem with it. I certainly haven’t. We are very competitive people. We both want to do well. When I speak about Jose I always show how much respect I have for him in all senses. I’ve always felt that back from him and that’s where it is.”
Sunday’s match will be the 1,000th game since Roman Abramovich became owner of Chelsea, transforming the club from also-rans to serial trophy contenders.
Since Abramovich’s takeover in 2003, the Blues have won five Premier League titles, the club’s only Champions League, two Europa Leagues, five FA Cups and three League Cups.
“As manager and as a player who was involved in a lot of those games I can give him a huge thank you because nothing that we have achieved in the Roman Abramovich era could have happened without him and his support,” said Lampard.
“Whether you’re talking about firstly the financial input but also the development of the training ground, the love and time put into the academy and the trophies we’ve been able to win have all been made possible because of him.”
Lampard said he will not rest until they are back at the pinnacle of the English game.
He won three Premier League titles and the Champions League as a player at Stamford Bridge and is now in his second season in the managerial hotseat.
Lampard, Chelsea’s all-time record goalscorer, joined the club in 2001 and was a key part of their rise as they were bankrolled by the Russian billionaire.
Abramovich’s cash injection turned the club from also-rans to serial title winners – they have claimed five Premier League titles since 2005.
“As much as you can invest in football you only win things through pure hard work and personnel on the ground whether you spend money or not in the modern Premier League,” said Lampard.
“I’ve been proud to be associated with the club through thick and thin.”
Lampard said last season was “transitional” for Chelsea, who qualified for the Champions League despite a transfer ban as punishment for breaking rules on registering young players.
Abramovich spent big again for Lampard’s second season, investing £220 million ($292 million) on Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell and Edouard Mendy, plus sizeable wages for Thiago Silva, who joined on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain.
“Now we’ve invested, we want to improve and I want to be a big help to that, that’s my job as head coach, to try and take that forward,” added Lampard.
“I am genuinely thankful for what Roman Abramovich has brought to the club and then my part of the deal is to do my absolute best.
“Nothing can ever be decided in football, nothing is gospel but I will do my absolute best to get us back to fighting hopefully for titles, which we have done pretty much in a lot of those eras.”
Four straight wins have taken Spurs to 20 points after nine games, ahead of Liverpool on goal difference, but Frank Lampard’s Chelsea are just two points behind them.
Mourinho has point to prove
Spurs boss Mourinho has a point to prove against Lampard too.
Mourinho and the former Chelsea midfielder-turned-manager have met four times in different dugouts.
Lampard gave Mourinho a bloody nose when his Derby side dumped Manchester United, then managed by the Mourinho, out of the League Cup on penalties in 2018.
After returning to Chelsea as manager, Lampard twice outwitted his former boss.
The 57-year-old veteran will be hoping this season’s League Cup win against Chelsea on penalties has turned the tide. He has never lost three consecutive league matches against the same manager or club before.
Mourinho was keen to play down title talk after last week’s impressive 2-0 win at home to Manchester City, which took them top.
“People cannot expect us to come here and after one season we are fighting for the title,” he told the BBC.
“We are not fighting for the title, we are just fighting to win every match. But we are going to lose matches, we are going to draw matches.”
But, like it or not, Spurs are in the title mix and will have to get used to the pressure, which will be ramped up on Sunday.
(With AFP inputs)