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Chelsea hires former midfielder Lampard as manager

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Frank Lampard, Chelsea’s all-time record scorer and one of its greatest ever players, returned to the club on Thursday as its 12th manager in 16 years under Roman Abramovich’s ownership.

The former Chelsea midfielder left second-tier club Derby, where he came close to securing promotion to the Premier League in his first season in management.

Lampard, who scored 211 goals for Chelsea from 2001-14, won every major honor at the club including three Premier League titles and the Champions League.

“Everyone knows my love for this club and the history we have shared,” Lampard said in a Chelsea statement announcing his arrival. “However, my sole focus is on the job in hand and preparing for the season ahead.

“I am here to work hard, bring further success to the club and I cannot wait to get started.”

Lampard is the first English coach to manage Chelsea on a full-time basis since Glenn Hoddle in 1996 — and the first Englishman hired by Abramovich to control the team since his takeover in 2003.

He replaces Maurizio Sarri, who lasted only one tumultuous year at Chelsea before returning to his homeland in Italy to coach Juventus. Sarri secured not only a third-place finish in the Premier League but also ended his reign by winning the Europa League in May.

The 41-year-old Lampard, who has signed a three-year deal, will have to contend with an inability to strengthen the squad because Chelsea is subject to a transfer ban which covers the two trading periods across the upcoming season.

United States winger Christian Pulisic and Croatia midfielder Mateo Kovacic have been signed up in advance but they will be the only arrivals at Stamford Bridge, meaning Lampard might have to call upon youth-team players during the early part of his tenure — something previous Chelsea managers have often been reluctant to do.

If anyone knows about the highs and lows of Stamford Bridge, it is Lampard.

“Frank possesses fantastic knowledge and understanding of the club and last season he demonstrated he is one of the most talented young coaches in the game,” said Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia.

“After 13 years with us as a player, where he became a club legend and our record goalscorer, we believe this is the perfect time for him to return and are delighted he has done so.”

In its statement, Chelsea praised Lampard’s “dedication to improvement, versatility and reading of the game.”

The last former Chelsea player to take over as coach was Roberto di Matteo, who won the Champions League and FA Cup in 2012 with Lampard in his squad. He was fired after only eight months in charge.

Lampard’s first two competitive games as Chelsea manager will be against Manchester United, on Aug. 11 in the opening weekend of the Premier League, and Liverpool, in the UEFA Super Cup on Aug. 14 in Istanbul.

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