Recruiting Frank Lampard Could Be a Change of Culture Chelsea Need
The premise of Good Morning Transfers, a new Sky Sports segment that begins on Monday, is that the present transfer window is poised to be the biggest, best and most expensive of all time and viewers will naturally wish to tune in from 9 am just to make sure they did not miss anything while they were sleeping.
You might think the rolling news service already covers summer transfer activity pretty well, whether or not you are an admirer of the absurdly overcooked drama of the window’s conclusion on deadline day. You might also think that biggest, best and most expensive are not necessarily mutually compatible terms or even desirable boasts.
What the rest of the world probably thinks is that this country enjoys the cash-splashing bit in the middle more than the actual football. Money is essentially what makes the Premier League so uniquely eye-catching and, boy, do we like to see it spent.
Just look at all the criticism leveled at Tottenham a year ago for keeping their checkbook in their pocket. Never mind they were building a new stadium or that Mauricio Pochettino’s existing squad proved to be good enough to reach the Champions League final, a Premier League club refusing to chuck money around is evidently inviting the same sort of suspicion as the bloke who tells his mates in the pub he intends to stick to water all night.
So if the news that Spurs had come to their senses and bought their first player for 18 months was greeted with something approaching relief, even if 18-year-old Jack Clarke was bought from Leeds with an eye on the future, signs that the club may be willing to break its transfer record for Tanguy Ndombele were practically an occasion to put out the bunting.
Unfortunately the Lyon chairman, Jean-Michel Aulas, seems prepared to play the same sort of hardball in which Daniel Levy specializes and, having seen Spurs raise their bid for the France midfielder from £45m to £65m, he appears to think the price can still go higher.
This will be a test for Levy, usually so adept at making sure the selling club obtain the highest price possible and relatively new to bidding for top-ranked players at top-end fees with the rest of the game eagerly following the outcome, but it appears Spurs are following a pre-agreed Pochettino blueprint to both strengthen and rejuvenate the side.
Ndombele is 22, with most of his career ahead of him, while Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon, also interesting Tottenham, is 19.
It remains to be seen whether Spurs will manage to tie down all their targets but, having succeeded in keeping hold of Pochettino amid interest from at home and abroad, they are clearly thinking long-term.
There will probably never be a better time to sign young players than when you have just reached your first Champions League final and, though Manchester City and Liverpool remain the obvious destinations for anyone with talent and ambition, the Spurs mix of Pochettino and an evolving side still capable of improvement is an attractive one.
Tottenham hoovering up some of the most promising young prospects around would not only make Good Morning Transfers happy it would also increase the frustration at Chelsea who, as things stand, cannot even attempt to replace Eden Hazard until next summer. A cynic might suggest that is part of the reason Chelsea have abandoned their previous policy of hiring coaches with proven pedigrees in Europe and are about to announce their first English manager in 23 years. The next manager is going to have to work with the resources already at Chelsea’s disposal, though not only are they considerable but it is frankly about time someone did.
While bringing in Frank Lampard could be seen as a risk in view of his limited coaching experience, in terms of his ability to relate to and assimilate talents such as Fikayo Tomori, Reece James and the army of other players who have been out on loan, the return of the club’s former midfielder would make perfect sense.
Realistically Chelsea might struggle to match last season’s third place – he might even get the credit he deserves at some point for a decent end to a difficult campaign – yet, if his successor can call in some of the players the club have posted around Europe and forge a team ethos similar to the one Pochettino has fostered at Spurs, that could also be regarded as progress.
The above-mentioned cynic would probably conclude that Chelsea are not in a position to attract leading foreign coaches any longer, with Hazard gone, a transfer ban in place and little hope of catching City and Liverpool in any case, though after another tempestuous season and yet another managerial departure it is just about possible that someone at Stamford Bridge would like a quieter, easier life.
No one would suggest for a moment that Pep Guardiola, Jürgen Klopp or Pochettino are not demanding taskmasters but their longevity suggests they have the balance right. Guardiola will start his fourth season at City in a couple of months, Klopp his fifth at Liverpool, Pochettino his sixth at Spurs. In the Roman Abramovich era, no Chelsea manager has yet lasted longer than Claudio Ranieri’s four years, and that particular illusion of permanence came about only because he had done three years before the Russian takeover. The nationality of the new Chelsea manager may be incidental in the end. The club just need something in their culture to change.