Frank Lampard denies enduring rift with Marcelo Bielsa over Leeds ‘spygate’

Frank Lampard played down any suggestion of an enduring rift with Marcelo Bielsa before Chelsea play Leeds at Stamford Bridge on Saturday nearly two years on from “spygate”. After noting his refusal to dwell on the past, Lampard categorised their relations as “normal”.

“Our relationship is the same as it’s always been,” the Chelsea manager said. “I suppose we had one little tiff, but … with somebody who doesn’t speak the language there’s obviously communication problems and then you just have respect for each other. Our relationship is normal, more than normal.”

The friction dates from January 2019 when Leeds were fined £200,000 after a staff member was apprehended while spying on Lampard’s Derby during a training session, provoking a stinging response from Lampard. Leeds fans belted out “Stop Crying Frank Lampard” during their 2019 play-off semi-final, which Lampard’s Derby won.

Circumstances are different now. This fixture will mark the revival of one of the great top-division rivalries as the teams meet in the league for the first time since Leeds were relegated in 2004. Lampard relishes the rivalry with Leeds during his playing career and in management.

“I love it,” he said. “I’m not trying to just laugh about it because it is important. Us [Derby] winning that game in the play-offs was one of my proudest, most enjoyable games in my career.

“And I don’t mind the ‘Stop Crying Frank Lampard’. I had my moment when we won. I’m very aware that when you have your moments, there will be people that will glory the moments that don’t go well with your football.”

Lampard has 18 months on his contract and he reflected on how time has flown since he was appointed last year. His ambition is to ensure that more years are to come.

“I felt like I took the job at a different position to most recent Chelsea managers,” he said. “I think people sympathise with that and believed that as well, and I thought it was a success. Now, I feel like I would love to be part of the long-term plan here. I think the signings we made in the summer were signings for now and the future, players that are going to progress and mature. Of course, I’d love to be part of that.”