Today the grapevine (which admittedly, is not always the most reliable of sources) suggests that Maurizio Sarri is going to become the next Juventus Manager. Rumours are also abound – that regardless of the result in the play-off final, Chelsea legend Frank Lampard, could well be in line to replace Sarri as Head Coach at Stamford Bridge. If this were to happen, it would represent the second appointment at one of England’s European heavyweights in a matter of months, following Manchester United’s hiring of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer earlier in the season.
Lampard and Solskjaer have two things in common:
- They are both fondly remembered for their time as players at their respective clubs – some would call them legends/icons
- Their managerial records do not qualify them for such a prestigious job
United’s brave and admirable decision to award Solskjaer the Old Trafford perch, was met with almost unanimous approval from United fans after seeing their team win 14 out of 19 games during his caretaker spell in charge. Since being awarded the job on a full-time basis, United’s results have seen a concerning drop-off, with the team at times resembling the one that limped through the early part of the season and caused José Mourinho to lose his job. This drop-off culminated in an embarrassing 2-0 defeat at home to Cardiff City on the final day of the season. United’s hierarchy must now be wondering whether their bravery might end up looking like naivety or even worse – stupidity.
It’s happening elsewhere too
It’s not just England’s top sides that are turning to former heroes to resurrect their fortunes. This season, former Monaco favourite Thierry Henry was given his first serious managerial job at one of France’s premier sides, despite not having any track record. Unfortunately for both Monaco and Henry, his time as a player will certainly be remembered more fondly than his tenure as manager. He left Monaco with a miserable record of just 4 wins in 20 games.
Similarly, Gennaro Gattuso, the recently-resigned AC Milan manager and hero of the Rossoneri was given the job in December 2017; even though he had no significant entries on his managerial CV. Although Gattuso didn’t perform miracles during his time in charge, he did bring a sense of respectability back to Milan after some very poor seasons.
We know who else had a meagre managerial record that was unworthy of obtaining such a prestigious job, but had a great affinity with the fans – Zinedine Zidane. He enjoyed incredible success: winning 3 consecutive Champions League trophies during his first tenure at the Bernabeu. Zidane’s success appears to have convinced other big clubs that it can work, and in this regard, he should be viewed as a trailblazer in the recent era.
Change of direction
For virtually the entirety of Roman Abramovich’s reign at Chelsea: every new managerial appointment, with the exception of Roberto Di Matteo and Avram Grant, have been tried and tested managers with distinguished track records at the highest level. In fact the list of former Chelsea managers during Abramovich’s reign is a star-studded list – Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti, Anotonio Conte and Sarri himself. Interestingly, Sarri is the only name on that list to have never won a top-level trophy: and he hasn’t exactly set the world alight in his first season in charge.
If Sarri leaves Chelsea this season, and the hierarchy decide to offer the job to ‘super Frankie Lampard’ it will represent quite a gamble. Though there can be little dispute that Lampard has affected a positive transformation at Pride Park – does one good season, at a club in the championship, warrant getting one of Europe’s premier jobs? Clearly the answer to this rhetorical question is no. So in essence, Lampard would be primarily getting the job on his affinity with the club, and importantly; the fans. Chelsea would be offering him the job based upon what they think he can do, not what he has done – quite a sea-change in the criteria Chelsea use to hire their new managers.
The talk of Lampard becoming the next Chelsea Manager seems to have started fairly recently, following Derby’s journey to a play-off final against Aston Villa. As talk of Sarri getting the sack or being pushed by Chelsea gathered pace, Lampard has, in a parody of his playing career; made a late run into the box and is just about to see one of his trademark missiles fly into the top corner metaphorically speaking. If it does, he will be emerging from the Stamford Bridge digout to the familiar “Super, Super Frank” chants.
Lampard is someone who holds a great deal of respect in the world of football, and many neutral observers would wish for him to do well if he does end up in the Chelsea dug out. If he does end up there, Chelsea will be hoping for ‘a Zidane’ rather than ‘an Henry’. Derby fans will be hoping that the speculation is just that.