Frank Lampard nears Chelsea comeback - Five club legends who returned as successful managers

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Chelsea fans are beside themselves with excitement as club legend Frank Lampard appears to be on the verge of taking charge at Stamford Bridge.

Following Maurizio Sarri’s move to Juventus after just one season in the Premier League, Lampard was deemed the favourite to replace him.

The former England international impressed during his stint with Derby County last season, leading them to the Championship play-off final where they lost 2-1 to Aston Villa in a bid for promotion.

Becoming Chelsea boss would see Lampard follow in the footsteps of legendary players who returned to manage their former clubs.

But will his homecoming be a successful one? Here’s five legends who delivered for the clubs in both capacities …

Kenny Dalglish

Not only is Dalglish arguably Liverpool’s greatest player but in his pomp, he was one of the best in the world. The iconic No7 starred as the Reds won three European Cups during his time as a player. He then transitioned into management seamlessly, taking over the reins as a player-coach heading into his ninth season at Anfield.

Dalglish however inherited a club struggling under the shadow of the Heysel Stadium disaster after which Joe Fagan resigned. He led them to a maiden domestic double. He made some stellar signings during his time, luring the likes of Peter Beardsley and John Barnes to the club before re-signing Ian Rush. In the aftermath of the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989, his leadership was crucial. That would be his final season and he signed off with another league title.

The Scot was back in the hot seat 21 years later, stepping up from youth coach after Roy Hodgson’s dismissal. The team was a work in progress but during his brief year-and-a-half stint, he at least ended a six-year trophy drought by winning the League Cup in 2012.

Kenny Dalglish

Zinedine Zidane

Looking back, Zidane’s first term as Real Madrid manager is still difficult to comprehend. A year and a half of coaching the Castilla side was all the experience the Frenchman had and yet, he was an instant hit at the biggest club in the world without any sort of tactical revolution.

His phenomenal career as a player earned him instant respect from the squad and with only a few subtle changes to the system, he helped Madrid conquer all without really playing teams off the park. Despite a suspect defensive record, his side went on to claim an unprecedented three consecutive Champions League titles.

Los Blancos weren’t as impressive domestically but still won La Liga during his first full season in charge. After just two and a half years at the helm, Zidane stepped down having delivered a whopping nine trophies.

His return earlier this year following Madrid’s worst season in living memory has been more aligned with reality and he has a huge task on his hands if his second term is going to be anywhere near as successful as his first.

Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane

Pep Guardiola

It helped that he had an incredible group of players at his disposal – including a virtually unplayable trio of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi – but Pep Guardiola’s philosophy and relentless coaching approach certainly brought the best out of them.

Having made the step up from the reserve team, Guardiola implemented his ideas quickly and transformed an already quality Barcelona team into an all-conquering force. He came through the ranks at Camp Nou during Johan Cruyff’s managerial reign and was heavily influenced by the iconic Dutchman, winning six league titles and one European Cup.

As a deep-lying playmaker he was at the heart of Cruyff’s system and carried that with him into management while adding his own ideas in the process. Equipped with a clear philosophy, he helped Barcelona embark on their most successful era. In four years, he led the Blaugrana to 14 trophies including a superb treble in the 2008/09 season.

Pep Guardiola

Johan Cruyff

Barcelona wouldn’t be the European powerhouse they are today without the lasting influence of Cruyff. He was a breathtaking player and one of the all-time greats, but after lifting just two trophies with the Catalans during a five-year stay he Cruyff-turned back to Camp Nou as manager a decade later.

In implementing his tiki-taka philosophy, he revolutionised the team’s style of play and in the process, changed football forever. During an eight-year tenure, he led Barcelona to enormous success, winning 11 trophies including four successive league titles as well as a European crown.

But his time at the club is not defined by silverware. He is part of Barcelona’s DNA and his legacy lives on through his influence which stretched far beyond the walls of Camp Nou.

Johan Cruyff

Carlo Ancelotti

As a player, Ancelotti was one of his generation’s best midfielders and thrived at a dominant AC Milan during the late eighties under Arrigo Sacchi. He would later serve as assistant to the Italian manager for the national team before stints at Reggiana, Parma and Juventus led him back to Milan.

He took over a floundering Rossoneri side though and he consolidated in his first season before turning the Serie A giants into one of the most feared teams in Europe during the following campaigns.

His eight-year stay at the San Siro yielded as many trophies including two Champions League titles. And to top it all, we have him to thank for unlocking the true genius of Andrea Pirlo having converted the attacking midfielder into a deep-lying playmaker back in 2002.

Carlo Ancelotti

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Former Liverpool star Fernando Torres announces retirement from football

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Former Liverpool and Chelsea striker Fernando Torres has announced his retirement from football.

The 35-year-old Spaniard, who has been playing in Japan for Sagan Tosu since leaving Atletico Madrid last year, scored 81 goals across four seasons with Liverpool and won the Champions League, Europa League and FA Cup with Chelsea.

A World Cup winner with Spain in 2010, Torres said on Twitter: “I have something very important to announce. After 18 exciting years, the time has come to put an end to my football career.”

After breaking through at hometown club Atletico, Torres moved to Liverpool in July 2007 and scored 24 Premier League goals in his first campaign in England.

He made a £50million deadline-day switch to Chelsea in January 2011 and, despite recording disappointing goal hauls in the league, his late goal against Barcelona in April 2012 sent the Blues to the Champions League final, which they would go on to win at the expense of Bayern Munich.

Torres had already won both the 2008 European Championship and South Africa-hosted World Cup with Spain and he conquered Europe for a second time with La Roja in 2012.

A loan spell at AC Milan from Chelsea preceded his return to Atletico in January 2015 before the Fuenlabrada-born forward made his move to Japan last July.

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Why PSG, Barcelona and Real Madrid want Ajax's Matthijs de Ligt, Hakim Ziyech, David Neres and Donny van de Beek

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Ajax players

Davinson Sanchez (€40 million), Arkadiusz Milik (€32m), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (€27m), Davy Klaassen (€27m) and Wesley Sneijder (€27m) occupy the top-five Ajax sales of all time, and all could be dislodged in one summer.

Once Frenkie de Jong’s €75m switch to Barcelona is transacted on July 1 the 22-year-old will move into the No1 slot, yet he may even be surpassed, or at the very least joined in the top positions if rumours turn to truth.

The captain, Matthijs de Ligt, will definitely depart for a similar fee and beyond him there is David Neres, Donny van de Beek and Hakim Ziyech capturing the gaze of Europe’s vultures.

But where will they go and what type of talents are being mined from the Dutch giants?

Matthijs de Ligt

Age – 19

Position – Centre-back

Clubs linked to – PSG, Barcelona, Man United, Man City and Juventus

Price tag – €75 million

It makes sense De Ligt’s reputation has witnessed a growth spurt given how physically developed he already is.

Age really is just a number where the centre-back is concerned and his athletic gifts have given him a platform to evolve mentally as well, now he’s surpassed 100+ appearances for Ajax.

Experience shapes understanding, and although De Ligt is just 19 years old, he can’t really be compared to players in his age group because he’s been operating as a senior starter since he was 17.

Even ranking him against defenders in their mid-20s, De Ligt still comes out on top, though. A natural leader and organiser, the Netherlands defender possesses poise on the ball, a fearless disposition and of course powerful aerial prowess in both boxes.

And it’s these qualities combined with the years ahead of him which has attracted practically every top European club.

Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain are the two leading the pack, the latter reportedly the choice of his agent Mino Raiola, the Catalan giants said to be the Dutchman’s personal preference.

His situation mirrors that of his friend and former colleague De Jong who was central to a tug-of-war between PSG and Barca.

De Ligt’s in the airport, it remains to be seen whether he is boarding a flight to Paris or Barcelona.

Hakim Ziyech

Age – 26

Position – Midfielder/right winger

Clubs linked to – Arsenal, Liverpool, Sevilla, Roma and Bayern Munich

Price tag – €35 million

BeFunky-collage - 2019-06-19T233759.413

The transfer market has lost its collective mind and the fact Ziyech is available for €35m makes sense for plenty of teams, although it kind of doesn’t given how that fee is not reflective of his talent.

The reason for the modest price is because of a gentleman’s release clause with Ajax after a move to Roma last summer collapsed when the Serie A giants opted instead to sign Javier Pastore.

That worked out well…

Ajax profited as the mercurial playmaker was again outstanding last season with his sauce garnishing the Eredivisie and Europe.

Curiously, the elite aren’t really strongly linked and Ziyech is content to remain at Ajax if an attractive suitor does not emerge.

He’s picky, but has every right to be, and it’s conceivable that the Morocco international will be in Amsterdam for 2019/20.

However, according to respected Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, Arsenal and Liverpool are top contenders with teams in Spain, Italy and Germany – assumed to be Sevilla, Roma and Bayern Munich – also interested.

And Ziyech is an enticing proposition for all. The midfielder, whether operating deeper or wide right, possesses an excellent range of passing, footwork in tight spaces and goalscoring ability off either foot, all now wedded to an unbelievable work rate.

He wants to be the author of a game and few script better tales.

David Neres

Age – 22

Position – Attacking midfielder

Clubs linked to – Everton, Liverpool and PSG

Price tag – €70-80 million

BeFunky-collage - 2019-06-19T233710.257

Ajax’s money bags are filled to the brim through the sales of De Ligt and De Jong.

That financial assurance places them in a position of strength, which means stripping another of their jewels will come at a premium.

Determining the true value of players is difficult to decipher in this market, and so the Dutch giants can demand an exponential fee for someone like Neres.

The 22-year-old winger is a player they don’t want to leave, but if a club is prepared to part with between €70-80 million then it’s an offer which can’t be refused, so says De Telegraaf.

Is the Brazilian worth it right now? Probably not, but he’s worth what teams are willing to pay for him.

Everton are desperate to pair him with Richarlison. The two would form a twin Samba wing force with Neres deployed on the left. He’s still raw, but his gripping displays against Real Madrid in the Champions League, plus the contribution to 25 goals in the league, suggests a luminous talent.

Not quite the cubed diamond yet, but there’s plenty of dazzle about the way he approaches the game.

He would fare better from at least another year of refinement at Ajax by adding consistency to his list of expressive traits.

Donny van de Beek

Age – 22

Position – Midfielder

Clubs linked to – Tottenham, Man United, Real Madrid and Inter Milan

Price tag – €60 million

There’s an argument to be made that Van de Beek was Ajax’s most impressive performer during their deep run in the Champions League.

Although nominally a centre-midfielder domestically, in Europe the 22-year-old was brilliant in a more advanced role behind the striker.

Against Juventus, Real Madrid and Tottenham – the latter two teams are reportedly interested in signing him – Van de Beek demonstrated his ability, tessellating between a No10 and No8 role, calibrating the midfield and attack with crisp passing.

He has that natural sense of identifying exactly where the opponent is, and a nearby team-mate while being able to stop and also develop counterpresses. His awareness of space with and without the ball, added to these other characteristics, mark him out as a pretty unique playmaker.

It’s a mystery why there isn’t quite the same frenzy for his signature as there is other Ajax players. Perhaps his more subtle talent goes a little unnoticed but he’s certainly a dynamic player.

Whether it’s this summer or next, it’s certain he’ll eventually move on given his calibre and the fact pieces around him have left.

There’s every chance Ajax may convince him to stay with the prospect of captaining the side, though.

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