As a Chelsea man through and through, he will no doubt have loved watching his club lift the Champions League for only the second time ever on Saturday night. But Frank Lampard will also undoubtedly have been envious that it wasn’t him in Thomas Tuchel’s place.
Admittedly, Chelsea looked miles off of being European Cup winners under Lampard as recently as late January, despite having the same squad as Tuchel. Simply, the German is just a superior coach and tactician.
Lampard himself declared that his squad was not ready to challenge only five months ago, saying: “It’s not a club ready to compete. We are not in the same position Chelsea were when we were winning titles. The consistency, the robustness, the level of experience of winning Premier Leagues is not the same.”
Less than half a year on, and clearly aren’t just ready to compete but to win – hence why they’ve just beaten Manchester City yet again under Tuchel and lifted Ol’ Big Ears into the Portuguese night sky.
That’s three wins on the spin versus City now. Tuchel is now a rival Guardiola must be very concerned about and within six months Chelsea have closed the gap considerably without even utilising the transfer window or having a full pre-season under their new boss.
The general consensus is that the Blues are only a striker away from giving champions City a real challenge for the 2021-22 title. It certainly looks that way too, though a couple of other additions such as another top-level defender wouldn’t hurt.
Yet while Tuchel is the man who has turned it around at Stamford Bridge, considerably outperforming his initial remit, Lampard deserves credit too. Not least because of the development of go-to midfielder Mason Mount, perhaps the very first man on the teamsheet nowadays.
Mount was the man who delivered the crucial pass to Kai Havertz for the only goal of the game in Porto against City and what a player he is blossoming into.
N’Golo Kante and Antonio Rudiger both shone in Portugal too but it is Mount who has been the club’s player of the year, the catalyst for everything they have done well under both Lampard and Tuchel. He was recognised as such at the club’s end-of-season awards in mid-May too.
Fifty-four appearances have returned nine goals and nine assists from a variety of roles in 2020-21 and there are so many talents of his to list: the boundless energy and his selfless defensive work ethic, the creativity, confidence and ability on the ball, the eye for goal. He is an elite talent technically, tactically, physically and psychologically.
There were doubters earlier this season – they’re here no longer. There are of course also plenty of qualities to Mount’s game that are intangible, his maturity and leadership, having already captained Chelsea twice in the FA Cup, cannot be measured by statistics.
No wonder John Terry commented on Mount’s celebratory Instagram post: “Unbelievable season, mate. Congratulations.” There’s a man who certainly knows about being a leading figure at Stamford Bridge.
Similarly, Cesc Fabregas knows a thing or two about playing the kind of defence-splitting passes that Mount found Havertz with, and reacted after his assist in the final: “What a ball!! @masonmount_10 that’s what I’m talking about!”
Considering two seasons ago he was on loan at Derby County under Lampard in the Championship, Mount’s growth has been phenomenal. He will surely enjoy a phenomenal career at Chelsea and will go down as one of their all-time greats if he continues at this rate.
Fabrizio Romano tweeted recently: “Mason Mount, one of the best midfielders in Europe. Chelsea refused proposals to sell or loan him out last summer – he’s considered ‘untouchable’.”
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Bravo Lampard. Mount became undroppable under him, after all. Lampard gave Mount his breakthrough in England with the Rams and then trusted him at Chelsea last year, handing him 53 appearances in which the progressive playmaker produced eight goals and six assists.
Mount’s father Tony even admitted of his fears after Lampard was sacked at the turn of the year: “He was a go-to player with Frank, he played him in about five different positions. I wasn’t sure to be honest [when Tuchel took over].
“Thomas came in and made a statement in the first game and played experience in his opinion, but Mason got on and has started all but two games under him. So I had concerns because you don’t know what the agenda is, but Mason has put that right.”
He most certainly has. The 16-cap England international, who has four goals for the Three Lions, however vowed after helping to down City that he’s nowhere near reached his full potential.
Mount added: “No, [I’m not world class], not yet. The best of me has not come. I’m still young, still learning and still hungry to get better and better — that’s the way I am.
“Having this [the Champions League winner medal] and winning this trophy has made me even more hungry. We need to do it [again] next season. We can’t be just a one-off.”
Chelsea’s No 19 is already such a polished all-rounded midfielder and even if he disagrees, he’s steadily approaching world-class status much like City’s Phil Foden. Both could star for England at the Euros this summer.
Lampard’s role in Mount’s journey must not be forgotten. The player has gone up another level under Tuchel too, of course, but without the club’s all-time top goalscorer, Mount wouldn’t be where he is now. And that means neither would Chelsea.