Carlo Ancelotti and Frank Lampard became Blues Brothers at Chelsea through mutual respect, trophies and a goodbye meal after the Italian was sacked… now they put their friendship to one side as they go head-to-head for the first time as managers
- Frank Lampard and Carlo Ancelotti meet again at Stamford Bridge on Sunday
- The pair became close during Ancelotti’s two-year spell as Chelsea manager
- Lampard enjoyed the most prolific season his career during Italian’s first year
- Midfielder and senior stars took Ancelotti for dinner after he was sacked in 2011
- They have remained in touch but will be rivals on the touchline this weekend
It didn’t take very long for Frank Lampard to be impressed by Carlo Ancelotti when he became Chelsea manager back in 2009.
The Italian arrived at Stamford Bridge with a grand plan. A three-time Champions League winner, he came to Chelsea looking to repair the ruins of a season written off by Luis Felipe Scolari’s short-lived reign before Guus Hiddink steadied the ship for the rest of the season.
He had long identified the need for a midfielder at Chelsea. Ancelotti first met Roman Abramovich in Paris two years before eventually taking the job and advised him to go after Liverpool’s Xabi Alonso.
Carlo Ancelotti gives Frank Lampard some tips during a training session in September, 2009
The pair would go on to enjoy a hugely successful season, winning the league and the FA Cup
This time, it was Andrea Pirlo, but it turned out to be a fruitless pursuit. Furthermore, Ancelotti was told he couldn’t bring his backroom team over from AC Milan and had to work alongside the staff in place, including Steve Holland and Ray Wilkins.
Missing out on a key signing and being without your trusted backroom staff could have been enough to derail any manager’s start to life in a new league, but Ancelotti was calm and composed. He found a solution within his ranks and it was Lampard who was the major beneficiary of the tactical tweak.
His diamond 4-4-2 became a 4-3-2-1, with Michael Essien dropping deeper to cover the position Ancelotti had considered for Pirlo or Alonso.
Higher up the pitch Lampard, who had not been enthralled at the idea of leading a diamond, was given company in the final third. It resulted in the most prolific season of his career – a tally of 27 goals in all competitions as Chelsea won the Premier League and the FA Cup.
It left Ancelotti marvelling at Lamaprd’s ability – and when rumours emerged of the midfielder leaving in the summer of 2010, Ancelotti bristled.
‘With this kind of skill there is no one else who can score 27 goals in a season,’ he said. ‘This is a joke – because Lampard will stay here.
Ancelotti has a word with Lampard before a Champions League clash with Inter Milan in 2010
Lampard and Ancelotti forged a strong bond during their two years together in west London
‘There’s no danger of Frank going because I know him very well and I know how he feels for this club, with these team-mates, and how important he is for the supporters.’
That season was one Lampard, quite understandably, remembers with immense fondness.
‘The smart thing he did was look at it and realise it didn’t suit some of our big players, myself included,’ Lampard said about Ancelotti back in 2017.
‘I remember being uncomfortable at the top of the diamond and not so comfortable on the left.
‘He changed the formation and that’s the brilliance of Carlo Ancelotti the manager. He is a players’ manager. He listens to his players and he wants to get the best from his best players because he knows that’s how you win the league.’
Their relationship had got off to a strong start when Ancelotti arrived at Stamford Bridge and immediately realised Lampard was a man he could rely on.
Ancelotti holds the Premier League trophy in May, 2010, as Lampard soaks up the atmosphere
The pair speak to the media before a Champions League clash with Manchester United
‘I found excellent English players there – John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole,’ Ancelotti wrote in his autobiography Quiet Leadership: Winning Hearts, Minds and Matches.
‘They were professional in training and on the pitch, with the right attitude and great intensity, and all this made for a pleasant surprise.’
In December of his first season in charge, the former AC Milan manager defended Lampard after he missed his first penalty for over three years during a 2-1 defeat by Manchester City.
‘So, Lampard can miss a penalty,’ said Ancelotti. ‘These things happen. It is no problem. He will take the next one.’
It was Ancelotti’s confidence in his players – along with his relaxed demeanour – which helped his squad stay cool during tricky points in the season, most noticeably after two defeats in three games in February.
The Blues bounced back to win eight of their last 10 matches, eventually pipping Manchester United to the title by a single point on the final day of the season.
Ancelotti shakes hands with Lampard after substituting him against Stoke in August, 2010
The Italian did the Premier League and FA Cup Double in his first season at Stamford Bridge
After the success of Ancelotti’s first term in charge, it would have been easy for him to lose elements of the dressing room during a much more difficult second year.
They were fifth in the Premier League going into an FA Cup tie with Everton in February 2011 when Lampard spoke up in defence of his ‘fantastic’ manager and insisted that the entire squad were still behind him despite their disappointing form.
‘The manager won the Double last year,’ he said. ‘He is a fantastic manager and a fantastic man.
‘I wouldn’t say I have felt sorry for him, he is very aware of the situation. He knows Chelsea are a big club and the minute you are on a funny run then people talk.
‘He is level-headed and everyone has respect for him. He didn’t deserve to get that kind of talk too much and he has very much come through that. He is a top manager to work for.’
The Blues ended up second in the table, nine points behind United, and were dumped out of both domestic cups early on. In the Champions League, the quarter-finals was as good as it got.
That was simply not enough for Abramovich, who after working so hard to lure Ancelotti to west London, decided to sack him after just two years in charge.
Ancelotti was taken out for a meal by Lampard after being sacked by Chelsea in May, 2011
The axe came down after a 1-0 defeat against Everton at Goodison Park on the final day of the season, but he maintained a strong bond with his players, particularly Lampard, who helped ensure he got a proper chance to say farewell.
In his book, Ancelotti wrote: ‘I’m told that the CEO was driving away from the stadium when he got the call to say, ‘Turn around and tell Carlo he is fired.’
‘I think the logic was that there was no point in waiting and telling me later. At least this way I could say goodbye to the players and staff before the off-season.
‘That night, when the team arrived back in London, the senior players – Didier Drogba, John Terry, Frank Lampard and the others – took me out for dinner and a few drinks.
‘I had never known that before in my career. I think I was liked.’
Ancelotti was certainly liked by Lampard. The pair stayed in touch after the Italian’s departure and were pictured enjoying dinner with Andrea Pirlo in New York in 2015.
Ancelotti enjoyed dinner with Lampard and Italy legend Andrea Pirlo in New York in 2015
When Lampard announced his retirement in 2017, Ancelotti paid tribute to him in one of his Bayern Munich press conferences.
‘I found a fantastic player, a fantastic man who was really serious and really focused,’ Ancelotti said of his time with Lampard.
‘I was lucky to have this type of player. I wish him all the best for future, I was lucky to have such a fantastic midfielder – and striker because he scored a lot of goals.
‘I saw him in Vancouver last year, we went to dinner together. I still have a good relationship with him.’
There remains immense respect between the two men, but on Sunday they will test their managerial nous against each other for the first time as Lampard’s Chelsea host Ancelotti’s Everton at Stamford Bridge.
Lampard and Ancelotti will go head-to-head for the first time as managers on Sunday
The former Real Madrid boss will be in the dugout after avoiding a touchline ban for furiously confronting referee Chris Kavanagh at the end of last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United.
He is assured of a warm reception from the Chelsea faithful, who retain wonderful memories of his debut season in England and the club’s first Double.
Lampard will welcome him back too, but it will be business as usual in what could prove to be a crucial game in the race for European football.
For Chelsea, Tuesday’s FA Cup win over Liverpool will be quickly forgotten if they squander more points at Stamford Bridge. They dropped seven in their four Premier League games in February.
Ancelotti’s Everton, meanwhile, are just about in touching distance of the top four going into this weekend’s encounter. A win would move them five points behind Chelsea, while also boosting the hopes of United, Tottenham and Wolves.
It seems inevitable that Lampard and Ancelotti will enjoy a glass of wine together after the match. But for one man, it will go down a lot more easily than the other.
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