Frank Lampard appears to have made a subtle dig at Jose Mourinho for his handling of Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne at Chelsea.
The two players failed to establish themselves under Mourinho at Stamford Bridge, but have gone on to become world-class players at Liverpool and Manchester City respectively.
Salah was just 21 when Chelsea paid Basel £11million for him in 2014, but he later joined Roma in 2016 and eventually moved to Liverpool for £34m in 2017.
There he has won two Golden Boot awards and the Champions League, while De Bruyne is the creative hub under Pep Guardiola and has been instrumental in helping to win successive Premier League titles, as well as an FA Cup and three League Cups.
The Belgium international arrived at Stamford Bridge in January 2012 for just over £6m when he was 20 years old, but was loaned back to Genk for the remainder of the season. On his return, he lasted two years before he was sold to Wolfsburg, with the Bundesliga club making £55m by selling him to Man City in 2015.
Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s Boxing Day clash with Southampton, Lampard, who played with both players, appeared to make reference to the Tottenham boss’ way of dealing with young talent.
“If we’re not patient and if we don’t stick with the players, we might end up in a situation like we were before where absolute top, world-class players in this moment were at Chelsea when they were 20, 21 and managers didn’t stick with them so much then,” he said.
“I’m in a position where I’m going to stick with them.”
It’s a criticism often levelled at Mourinho, who has previously denied he was to blame for letting Salah leave, first to Fiorentina on loan and then Roma.
“When the club decided to sell him, it was not me,” he said.
“I bought him, I didn’t sell him, and my relationship with him was good, is good.
“I think that he doesn’t regret that move because everything went well. Everything went well for him and the progression went well for him but, at that moment, he was just a kid with a huge desire to play every week, every minute and we couldn’t give him it.”
De Bruyne, meanwhile, recently revealed he only spoke to Mourinho twice and the manager blocked him from teaming up with Jurgen Klopp.
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Lampard has also said he was disappointed with Mourinho questioning Antonio Rudiger’s integrity.
After watching his lose 2-0 at White Hart Lane to their London rivals and seeing Heung-min Son sent off for kicking out at the defender, he sarcastically said Rudiger must have ‘broken ribs’.
Rudiger was then racially abused.
“With Toni, in this incident when he’s having to post after the game about [racism] something we know is a huge deal, I think to question his integrity in that time is disappointing for sure.
“Pretty universally, certainly what I heard in the commentary and the post-match reflection was that the Son incident was a red card. It wasn’t brutal but it was instinctive that warrants a red card in the modern day.
“It was pretty clear that was the case. I wouldn’t question Toni’s integrity on that. So I do defend Toni firmly on it.”
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