The news that football’s best-dressed manager, Pep Guardiola, has announced he is ready to return from his soul-enriching sabbatical in New York to take the helm at one of Europe’s top clubs was likely music to Roman Abramovich’s ears.

The talent Chelsea has brought in over the past two years is evidence of that – the likes of Hazard, Oscar, Mata and Azpilicueta are exactly the kind of players Guardiola made his name shaping into the all-conquering Barcelona team that swept aside all before them.

It’s no secret that Abramovich is looking to break up Chelsea’s old guard and its core of mainly English players who, reports suggest, he perceives wield too much power in the dressing room.

First Didier Drogba won Chelsea the Champions League before being excommunicated to China, and now Frank Lampard appears to have become the second casualty of Roman’s war, as the 34-year-old’s agent claimed last week that Chelsea’s second all-time top goal scorer would be leaving the club this summer.

Taking into consideration Lampard’s remarkable consistency, recent goals and the position of esteem Chelsea fans hold him in, it’s certainly a bold move.

Man U’s Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs have proved in recent seasons the value of experienced players to top clubs. 

Since his arrival at Chelsea in 2001, Lampard has been instrumental in everything the club has gone on to achieve.

It remains a shame that the national side’s institutional failings taint his image more broadly. Lampard, in short, should go down in the history books (and, more realistically, Sky Sports clip shows) as a genuine star of the game. 

Guardiola’s managerial success, although remarkable, has been in the most favourable of circumstances. There are fairly few top flight managers who couldn’t make a success of a team featuring Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, et al.

There are markedly fewer who could walk into a club as apparently factious as Chelsea and establish a brand of football the club hasn’t seen before, with an owner who demands unremitting success.

Agree or disagree? Is Roman right to send Lampard packing?


Big bash needs: Warne’s Antics

Shane Warne’s now infamous to-do with Marlon Samuels was exactly what The Big Bash needed. 

Whereas the IPL could do with a jot less controversy, Australia’s rival competition was in danger of looking like the Indian Premier League’s anaemic cousin, before Warne and Samuels’ antics made headlines around the globe.

The Sheik of Tweak’s blow-up at the West Indian all-rounder showed the injudicious tendencies that meant he could never be Australia’s captain, but left him free to become the game’s greatest ever bowler and a potentially destructive tailend batsman – it also proved that, at 43, the competitive spirit doesn’t wane with age.

Just as Warne focused the cricketing world’s attention on the Big Bash, albeit by copping a one-match ban, so he looks set to take centre stage with his Melbourne Stars making the competition’s semi-finals. I, for one, will be watching.


Photo: Getty