Frank Lampard has revealed he tried to sign Erling Haaland for Chelsea during his first spell as the manager at Stamford Bridge.
The Manchester City striker came up against Lampard’s team in a pre-season friendly in 2019 while he was playing for RB Salzburg in Austria.
He scored 28 goals in 22 matches that season before signing for Borussia Dortmund the following summer, but Lampard said he attempted to bring him to west London instead during his 18-month spell in charge between 2019 and 2021.
Ultimately competition for the Norway international’s signature, together with the fact not everybody at Chelsea was convinced that a bid for Haaland would have been the right move, meant that Lampard was left frustrated.
His 36 Premier League goals for title-chasing City this season mean he has scored as many times in the league as the entire Chelsea squad have, with the two teams meeting at the Etihad on Sunday as City look for the victory they need to seal the title.
Chelsea by contrast remain in the bottom half of the table, with their struggles in front of goal this season having shown no sign of easing in recent weeks.
“I’ve got huge respect for him as a player, he’s a player I tried to bring to Chelsea the first time I was here,” said Lampard. “I was really keen to get him here but obviously that couldn’t happen. His level at that point was very clear, we played against him in a pre-season game for Salzburg.
“Credit to him, I love seeing players of that level, I love seeing players of that personality and hunger to play and be the best which he’s proved himself to be. In terms of having to deal with him you have to have obviously a plan and an idea, but players of that level can make anything happen at any moment.
“I think he’s special, I thought he’d adapt straight away just (because of) his level. I think with the level of players and his record of scoring, firstly in Austria then for his country and in the Bundesliga – which is not an easy league – to come into a really good unit already.
“The rest is just credit to himself and the team around him. I did expect that, it’s not just an easy hindsight answer, I’ve got real respect for the player.
“I don’t know whether he would have decided to come here anyway but I was a big fan. There are some of those that happen that people don’t know about that could have been this way, people talk a lot about mistakes and the things that could have been in football.
“Whether he would have come I don’t know, but I was pushing big, and for a couple of other players as well. But he was the outstanding one.
“From our point I was pushing it, I’m not sure what the appetite everywhere else in the club was to do it. The competition was big to take him because he was an outstanding player. I think there was a buyout clause at the time which I think was relatively reasonable given the player (he joined Dortmund for around £17million). I don’t have enough detail to say how close it was.”
Lampard has two matches left of his interim spell in charge, with Manchester United at Old Trafford and Newcastle at Stamford Bridge to come after City.
He has won only once during his eight games in the job, a 3-1 victory at Bournemouth earlier in May, with six defeats having come in that time including a Champions League exit to Real Madrid.
Mauricio Pochettino is expected to be confirmed as the permanent successor to Graham Potter, who was sacked on April 2, in the coming days, and he will have a huge rebuild on his hands after a disastrous season for the club.
Despite the poor form, Lampard said he has no regrets about agreeing to take over in the short-term from Potter.
“I have enjoyed it, I get asked it a lot,” he said. “You want to always get results but you have to be realistic in football. When I came into this, the Champions League dream that everyone talked to me about, (saying) it’s been done before, can we do it again?
“The realistic answer was we were where we were in the league for a reason. Our view was to try and beat Real Madrid then possible City to get to a final. In terms of the rest of the job, it’s been how many small wins can I try and impact behind the scenes. You can’t always impact results.
“Generally there’s a lot of work to do here. I can have a certain impact with certain individuals within the group because I have a big feeling for the club.”