Soccer

Chelsea transfer plans: If Frank Lampard gets fired what would it mean for Erling Haaland, Declan Rice moves?

Frank Lampard would acknowledge that his future is no longer within his control. Such is the cost of leading any Chelsea side to eighth in the Premier League table at the season’s halfway stage, particularly one that has had over $200million invested in some of the best and brightest talents in Europe.

“It’s not my decision, that’s something that will always be there,” Lampard said last night after watching his side tamely fall 2-0 at table-toppers Chelsea. “You always understand some things are beyond your control.”

From the outset it is worth noting that even an owner as trigger-happy as Roman Abramovich would rather not sack a club legend such as Lampard. There is an acknowledgement by some around Chelsea that their manager is not wrong to point that after last season’s transfer ban this remains a transition period for the Blues, albeit one that was supposed to be accelerated by the signings of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Thiago Silva, among others.

Already the question at Stamford Bridge is whether Lampard is the man to trust with the coming years of this transition with reports indicating a readiness to invest further this summer to try to take advantage of the financial troubles of their rivals. Below we assess what a Lampard exit could mean for key aspects of Chelsea’s transfer business:

Declan Rice

The West Ham midfielder was the one who got away last summer with David Moyes demanding “Bank of England” money, understood to be over $100million, to sell the former Chelsea academy prospect back to the Blues. It was a deal that was particularly favoured by Lampard, who believed that the 22-year-old could develop into either a top tier defensive midfielder or centre back.

Rice has certainly lived up to Lampard’s assessment this season. One of a handful of outfield players across the league to have played every minute so far this season, the England international has made the third most interceptions in the top flight this season and sits fifth for ball recoveries. As a long-term successor for N’Golo Kante, who Inter Milan attempted to sign lsat summer, he might be the ideal option.

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As such it should not be assumed that Chelsea’s interest ends with Lampard’s departure but new coaches bring with them new priorities and a more defense-minded shield may not be what is favored by many of those being linked with with the job. Thomas Tuchel, for instance, favoured the playmaking of Marco Verratti at the base of his engine room.

Chelsea have been stung before by signing players specifically to fit into the vision of coaches whose reign is usually fleeting at Stamford Bridge, Jorginho was the ideal conductor for Maurizio Sarri’s orchestra but has been an awkward fit under Lampard. Rice would surely be an excellent Chelsea player under any new head coach but there may not be quite the intensity to their pursuit under new management.

Erling Haaland

This one is rather more simple. Chelsea are reportedly ready to make their move for Haaland this summer, a year before his $90million release clause comes into play, so as to steal a march on a signing that every club with the means to do so will investigate in the summer of 2022.

There will be a stampede for Haaland’s services when he decides his time at Borussia Dortmund is over. Having flourished with Red Bull Salzburg in Austria the step up to Europe’s top five leagues has proven to be a breeze for the 20-year-old, who has 35 goals in 36 appearances for the German giants. It is on the biggest stages that he most excels, since the start of the 2019-20 season he has scored 16 goals in 12 Champions League games. Only Robert Lewandowski has more in the same period.

In short, he is one of the best young players in the world and would be a bargain even if Chelsea had to go significantly into nine figures to prise him away a season earlier than Dortmund would like to lose him. Whoever the manager, the Blues will surely remain in the race for Haaland.

The academy stars

Signing Haaland would heighten doubts over Tammy Abraham’s future. Even if it also meant the departure of Olivier Giroud, out of contract at the end of the season, there would be no doubting that the England international would be at best second fiddle to the new man, possibly even lower on the depth chart dependent on where any head coach chose to deploy Timo Werner.

Abraham has scored 26 goals in 74 games for Chelsea
Getty Images

Abraham would not be the only academy prospect looking nervously over his shoulder if Lampard were to move on. To an extent it was a matter of timing that the 42-year-old found himself tied into Chelsea’s youth revolution last season, a FIFA-imposed transfer ban leaving them with little choice but to play the kids. However it has been something that he has shown at least some commitment to this season.

Mason Mount has been such a key figure in Lampard’s plans that the manager has felt compelled to address questions over whether he shows any favoritism to the 22-year-old, who worked with him on loan at Derby County, whilst Reece James, Billy Gilmour and Callum Hudson-Odoi have all got opportunities under their current manager that may not be so consistently available in the future.

Already there are signs that the Blues’ commitment to the youth movement is slowing. Whilst Lampard talks of Fikayo Tomori having a bright future at Chelsea those above him were prepared to sanction a loan to AC Milan that will give the Serie A leaders a $34 million purchase option. Without the incumbent at the helm it is fair to suspect that the likes of Hudson-Odoi might be looked on more as sellable assets who could fund the next big money swoop, rather than a building block for the future.



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