Belfast Telegraph

Lampard is edging nearer a return to Chelsea


In talks: Frank Lampard has been excused from Derby training to speak with Chelsea about becoming manager
In talks: Frank Lampard has been excused from Derby training to speak with Chelsea about becoming manager
Mateo Kovacic

By Steve Simpson

Frank Lampard has been excused from reporting back for pre-season training with Derby as he continues discussions about becoming Chelsea manager.

Rams boss Lampard was last week granted permission to speak to the Premier League club with a view to succeeding Maurizio Sarri at Stamford Bridge.

Derby are searching for a new manager on the assumption the 41-year-old will leave Pride Park.

"Derby County Football Club has excused Frank Lampard from reporting back for pre-season training on Monday and Tuesday to allow his discussions regarding a potential move to Chelsea to be concluded as soon as possible," read a statement on the club's official website.

"The first few days of pre-season training will be focused on fitness training and will continue as planned under the guidance of the fitness, medical, conditioning and sports science teams at the club's training centre.

"On the assumption that Frank will reach an agreement with Chelsea to become their new manager, the club shall step up its efforts to find a replacement manager."

Former midfielder Lampard scored a club-record 211 goals as a Chelsea player between 2001 and 2014, winning 11 major trophies.

Derby owner Mel Morris feels it is only a matter of time before Lampard and Chelsea reach an agreement.

"I'm assuming so. Obviously it's a matter between Chelsea and Frank at this stage, but they've now got the opportunity to finalise matters," admitted Morris yesterday. "When Frank and I first met, we discussed this very eventuality, the only difference is the timing of this.

"Our belief is that Frank and Chelsea need to have the time now to finalise the transaction between them."

Asked if Chelsea have already had sufficient time, he replied: "You could say that.

"I think in fairness that Frank was away on vacation, didn't come back until Friday - a well-deserved vacation, it was a pretty tough season - so I think that's been a big factor."

If Lampard is appointed then one of the players he will work with is Mateo Kovacic.

Chelsea last night signed Kovacic on a five-year deal from Real Madrid.

The midfielder initially moved to Stamford Bridge on loan last summer, helping the Blues to win the Europa League in May.

He has now completed a permanent move.

Kovacic stated: "I really enjoyed my season on loan with Chelsea, I feel comfortable at the club and like London and the Premier League very much. I am very happy to be able to join permanently.

"We had a successful year, winning the Europa League and I hope I can make a big contribution in the coming seasons."

The 25-year-old - who had been at Madrid since 2015 - made 51 appearances in all competitions for Chelsea, who finished third in the Premier League, but did not score.

Kovacic moves in the opposite direction to Eden Hazard, who completed his big money move to the Bernabeu last month.

Chelsea are currently banned from registering new signings until the summer of 2020 after being found guilty of breaching rules when signing youth players.

But they have been able to complete this signing as it is seen as an extension to the deal agreed when Kovacic joined on loan last summer, with Chelsea merely exercising their 'option to buy' clause.

Meanwhile, Southampton have completed the signing of Birmingham forward Che Adams for an undisclosed fee.

The 22-year-old, who registered 22 Sky Bet Championship goals for Blues last season, has agreed a five-year contract with the Premier League club.

Adams scored 38 times in 123 appearances during his three-year stay at St Andrew's after joining from Sheffield United in 2016.

Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl told his club's website: "Che fits the profile of player we want to bring to Southampton and is very driven to show what he can do at the highest level.

"We have been monitoring his progress for some time now.

"He has shown a desire to join us above all other clubs, which shows the positive reputation Southampton has built for developing young players."

Adams' arrival follows the signing of Mali winger Moussa Djenepo from Belgian club Standard Liege.

"I'm delighted. There was interest in January, when it didn't quite happen, but I'm happy now that it's all gone through," said Adams.

"You can see with the track history - the amount of young players they're playing, the gaffer's belief in the young players, the squad in itself - where the club is going to be. I want to be part of that."

Southampton also confirmed the permanent transfer of Danny Ings from Liverpool on a contract until 2022.

Saints had an obligation to buy the striker after he spent the 2018-19 campaign on loan at St Mary's.

Ings, who scored seven Premier League goals in 24 appearances last term, said: "I'm looking forward to it and hopefully great things can come from it."

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