Jose Mourinho on when "love story" with Frank Lampard ended after controversial decision

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They were central to arguably the most-important era in Chelsea’s history – but even the “love story” between Jose Mourinho and Frank Lampard wasn’t quite built to last any turbulence.

Lampard carved his own place in Stamford Bridge folklore, becoming the club’s all-time leading scorer during a trophy-laden 13-year spell which included three Premier League titles and a Champions League crown. Though it was the arrival of Mourinho into the Blues’ hot-seat which triggered Chelsea and Lampard’s steep rise to the top.

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Mourinho’s leadership helped transform his prized pupil from a good top-flight midfielder to a world-class superstar, with the self-proclaimed Special One admitting in 2005: “I can’t imagine how he can improve because for me he is the best player in the world. There are other fantastic players, but they only appear once a month. Lampard does it in all the games.”

The feeling was clearly mutual, as Lampard made no secret of his admiration for the Portuguese coach, though their connection was not bulletproof, with Mourinho later admitting their footballing romance was over.

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Here, Mirror Football takes a look at the relationship between the former Chelsea pair, what went wrong, and why it took an abrupt sacking to begin to rekindle their close bond.

Blue is the colour

© Getty Images Frank Lampard and Jose Mourinho were a match made in heaven at Chelsea

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Mourinho arrived in England in the summer of 2004 having just lifted the Champions League and was expected to achieve plenty, declaring himself “a special one”.

He proved to be as special as promised, winning six trophies before his shock exit in September 2007. Chelsea fans will forever remember Lampard’s brace against Bolton in April 2005, helping them secure a 2-0 win and their first Premier League title.

Lampard’s connection with Mourinho was strong throughout the latter’s first spell in charge. The Englishman reportedly turned down the chance to join Barcelona in 2006. “It would be a dream to come to Barca,” Lampard told reporters in Spain. “But Chelsea has offered me a renewal, and I am very proud of that.”

And when Mourinho joined Inter Milan in 2008, he tired to lure Lampard to the San Siro. “If I am honest about it, I did have thoughts about going to Inter,” recalled Lampard in February 2010. He added: “Everybody knows how I feel about Jose Mourinho.”

Lampard ended up staying at Chelsea and was still there when Mourinho was re-appointed in the summer of 2013. It seemed like a fairy-tale reunion between the two, yet it turned out to be the beginning of the end for their self-proclaimed “love story”.

Manchester calling

© Getty Images Lampard joined Manchester City in 2014 after being released by Mourinho’s Chelsea

It’s fair to say the 2013-14 campaign didn’t turn out as hoped for Chelsea. They failed to win a trophy, with Lampard scoring just six Premier League goals. Mourinho acted, releasing the veteran – then 35 – and signing Cesc Fabregas as his replacement.

“This club has become part of my life,” said Lampard on his departure. “When I arrived at this fantastic club 13 years ago, I would never have believed that I would be fortunate enough to play so many games and enjoy sharing in so much success.

“The club will move forward and, as a Chelsea man, I have no doubt that, with the quality of the players that are there, they will continue with the success that we have all enjoyed over the past seasons.”

Mourinho’s decision was vindicated – winning both the Premier League and EFL Cup – but he was left feeling uneasy at beginning of the season. The Chelsea boss thought Lampard was out of his professional life, as the player signed for MLS newbies New York City.

Yet that move also included a six-month loan deal with Manchester City, the defending Premier League champions and Chelsea’s main title rivals. Lampard went on to spend the entire season at the Etihad, making 38 appearances in all competitions.

Is Frank Lampard the greatest midfielder in Premier League history? Let us know in the comments below!

After spending so many years at Stamford Bridge, the transfer felt strange. It became even more bizarre when Lampard came off the bench to score an equaliser for City in their 1-1 draw against Chelsea. The midfielder refused to celebrate the awkward moment.

“Frank Lampard is a Man City player,” Mourinho told Sky Sports. “When he decided to go to a direct competitor, then love stories are over… I don’t believe in stories of passion and heart, maybe I am too pragmatic in football. He did his job as a professional.”

Mourinho went on to tell the BBC : “I feel that when a player leaves another club and plays for a direct opponent, he is not going there for a holiday, he is going there to try and beat his club – the one everyone considers the club of his heart, but not any more.”

Mourinho’s comments were cutting, showing the fighting spirit that would help Chelsea beat City to the title. And it wouldn’t be long before the two faced each other again.

Master and apprentice

© PA Mourinho failed to win his first four managerial meetings with Lampard

Few expected Mourinho and Lampard to meet in the dugout when the latter was appointed Derby manager in the summer of 2018, yet they were pitted together when the Rams drew Manchester United at Old Trafford in the third round of the EFL Cup.

Mourinho’s time at Chelsea had come to an ugly end – slumping to 16th in the Premier League following a public row with club doctor Eva Carneiro – and he’d since taken the United job. After a promising start at Old Trafford – winning three trophies – the Portuguese coach was struggling again and couldn’t afford a defeat to Lampard’s team.

What followed was a dramatic shootout win for Derby, whose team included Mason Mount, Harry Wilson and Fikayo Tomori. “I’m shell-shocked,” said Lampard. “To go down early at Old Trafford and play as well as they did was superb. I am a proud manager.”

The apprentice had mastered his ex-master… and not for the last time. Lampard – now in charge of Chelsea – went on to do the double over Mourinho’s Tottenham in 2019-20. To this day, the Portuguese coach is yet to beat his former player in management.

For that, Lampard has earned Mourinho’s respect as both a player and manager. And, although they’re both still competing for coaching glory as managers of Everton and Roma respectively, the “love story” between the two is firmly back on track.

“I bumped into Jose round the streets after getting sacked [by Chelsea in January 2021],” Lampard told The Overlap last year. “He came over and gave me a big hug, and he went: ‘Now you’re a real manager because you’ve been sacked’. Cheers. I loved it.”

Lampard has also called Mourinho the “best manager” he’s played for. “He’s brilliant, a real man-manager,” added Lampard in 2015. Mourinho, meanwhile, said Lampard was “probably the best player in the Premier League for one decade” in 2016.

Mourinho’s and Lampard’s days of Premier League domination at Stamford Bridge may be over, yet their story isn’t. Whether that will continue to be a “love story” remains to be seen, but we can certainly except them to meet in the football arena again one day.

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