A year can do a lot for a reputation, for better or worse. When Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003, Frank Lampard looked one of those ripe for replacing by expensive arrivals.

In the next 12 months, a previously serviceable but unexceptional midfielder played 70 games for club and country, scoring 20 goals and became one of the players of Euro 2004.

A further year later, he was the Footballer of the Year, on course to finish second only to Ronaldinho in the Ballon d’Or.
A year out of management may have done damage to Lampard’s reputation. So did the seven-week spell that took him from top of the table to the sack.

Thomas Tuchel took over a Chelsea team who were 10th before his first game, made them Champions League winners four months later and looked a huge upgrade on Lampard.

Chelsea’s greatest goalscorer formed a contrast with the career coach, the micromanager who was the master of detail and who addressed some of the flaws under his predecessor – the susceptibility to counter-attacks, the habit of conceding from set-pieces, the sense he didn’t quite know his strongest team, the question of what to do with Jorginho and Antonio Rudiger – with immediate clarity of thought. Tuchel borrowed Antonio Conte’s system and Jose Mourinho’s efficiency to devastating effect. 
Lampard, meanwhile, spent a year on the sidelines. A host of jobs – Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, Wolves, Newcastle – came up and went to others.

If he was fast-tracked to Chelsea after a solitary year at Derby, there was a question of where his level was. Tuchel’s exploits suggested Lampard had underachieved as Chelsea manager.

As he returns with Everton, there is a counter-argument: that he was a qualified success. His feat in taking them to fourth in 2020 after a transfer ban and losing Eden Hazard facilitated Tuchel’s achievements.

By promoting Reece James and Mason Mount at a club with no recent tradition of trusting homegrown players, he supplied two key figures in their Champions League glory.

Two more were very much his signings, in Ben Chilwell and Edouard Mendy. And while Kai Havertz got the Champions League final winner for Tuchel, a year on, the German has found his compatriots Havertz and Timo Werner as much of a conundrum.
And part of the reason to make Lampard Everton manager lies in his character. Few players improved quite like him and then maintained such standards.

He took the talent he possessed and turned it into freakish levels of achievement: over 300 goals and 1,000 games in his career, a record 211 goals in 648 games in a Chelsea shirt, captaining the 2012 Champions League winners. 
He drove himself to greatness. That streak is a reason to believe his encouraging but embryonic managerial career can become something bigger and better; that he will come back having improved, as a man-manager and a tactician.

That drive may account for his presence at Goodison Park, at what now appears the Premier League’s most dysfunctional club and where the approach for Roberto Martinez and ultimately embarrassing flirtation with Vitor Pereira highlighted both that there can be few opportunities for English managers when coaches from across the global game eye opportunities, and that Lampard was not the first choice.


With a net worth of £40 million, he does not need to walk into the madhouse. He has had to deal with the disappointment of losing what everyone knows was his dream job. The blue shirt with which Lampard is indelibly associated is not Everton’s royal blue. 
But he has rarely shirked a challenge, and his third managerial job presents a huge one. The Everton badge is framed with the words ‘nil satis nisi optimum’; the club’s motto is that nothing but the best is good enough.

Everton have been nothing near the best of late. Compile a league table since the October international break and Everton prop it up, with five points from a possible 39. Oversee their first relegation in 71 years and Lampard’s standing will suffer considerable harm. 
While he played for his two immediate predecessors, Carlo Ancelotti and Rafa Benitez, at Chelsea, he may need to do the job David Moyes did further into Everton’s past and at West Ham more recently, making the immediate impact to keep a club up, but effecting a wider cultural reset to get rid of expensive underachievers, recruit those with the right personality as well as ability, render a team hard to beat and restore a sense of pride and unity.

For his own hopes of reaching the level Tuchel has, it may help if he can develop a style of play to suggest Lampardism is more than just a general wish to attack and trust in young players.

Thus far, it is notable how different his ideas have proved to Mourinho’s, when the assumption was that a mentor could have been a role model. It was under Mourinho that Lampard was voted the second best player in the world.

Amid an enduring debate as to how good a manager he is and can become, Lampard’s greatest asset may be his proven ability to transform himself and reach another level.

*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to AP Photo*

Richard Jolly is a football journalist for the National, the Guardian, the Observer, FourFourTwo, the Independent, the Straits Times, Sporting Life & Football 365, covering the Premier League.