Frank Lampard has hit back at Jurgen Klopp’s “we can’t behave like Chelsea” comments after pointing to the fact that Liverpool have spent big in recent years on the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Alisson, Fabinho and Naby Keita.
Liverpool won the Premier League last year finishing 33 points above fourth-place Chelsea, who were just happy to qualify for the Champions League in a transitional season in which they were hit with a transfer embargo.
After two transfer windows without making a senior signing, the Blues have spent around £200 million ($252m) this window after completing deals for the likes of Kai Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen, Timo Werner from RB Leipzig and Ben Chilwell from Leicester City, while they continue to target Rennes goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.
That relentless spending comes amid a Covid-19 pandemic in which businesses, including football clubs, are being hard hit financially. Liverpool manager Klopp suggested that some clubs like Chelsea are immune to the financial effects of the virus due to being owned by oligarchs, like Roman Abramovich, but the Chelsea manager laughed off that claim.
“I was less annoyed with it,” Lampard said over Zoom ahead of his side’s Premier League opener against Brighton on Monday. “I found it slightly amusing because I think when you talk about the owners of clubs, I don’t think it matters what line of business they come from.
“We are talking about some very wealthy owners of clubs in the Premier League. With Liverpool’s story, I referenced it a lot last year. It’s a fantastic story of a club over the four and a half or five years that Jurgen Klopp’s been there where they’ve managed to get recruitment right to a really high level.
“The reality is – other than maybe Leicester, which was an incredible story – most clubs that win the league in the modern day have recruited well and have recruited at quite a high-level money wise. You can go through the Liverpool players – Van Dijk, Alisson, Fabinho, Keita, [Sadio] Mane, [Mohamed] Salah.
“Incredible players that came at a very high price. Liverpool have done it over some time. What we have done is come off the back of a ban and probably try to address the situation ourselves to help improve us. It’s par for the course. We all know that.
“There’s no point doing the maths. We know that Liverpool have spent at a high level. We know they have an incredible coach. We know they have incredible players. The really smart thing Liverpool have done is to believe in their coach and believe in their system for a number of years.
“It’s a great story but it’s a story where they’ve spent money on players. This summer we’ve spent money on players and now the hard work has to come.
“When you carry on and what I read from Jurgen Klopp was that he said about the idea of bringing in a group of players is not going to be easy for us no matter what the level is and as I mentioned there we are talking about some younger players from different leagues.
“I think he was talking with fair context when he said it like that but in terms of the money spent, of course, Liverpool have spent huge amounts in a very good way as well.
“In terms of where we’re at, we have to not focus too much on what other teams, managers, supporters, radio, media say, we have to worry about what we can do on the training pitch as that’s the only thing that will define us so I’m not too concerned.
“I’m pleased with the business we’ve done, really pleased. Now I want us to be excited as a team to work hard to get results.”
Indeed, after a season of bringing through youth players, Lampard wasn’t shy about pushing an aggressive recruitment drive that is similar to the one that saw Liverpool win their first league title in 30 years.
Still, Lampard has accepted that the way he is judged will now be different to last season with such high-profile signings changing the expectation levels. He thinks that managers will leverage their positions to try to heap pressure on the west Londoners, but he is determined to ignore the mind games.
“Those are the rules,” he added. “I would probably reference it elsewhere. I would probably mention the transfer ban quite a lot last year. Maybe I felt that was some of the reason we were 30 points behind the top two teams. [Tottenham manager] Jose Mourinho might mention it.
“He maybe wouldn’t have done when he was at Manchester United. These are the rules. Sometimes if you have the opportunity as a club, managers working at a top club, you try and do it as well as you can.
“I feel we’ve done it this summer with a view on bringing in young players of very high talent, with the exception of Thiago Silva and his age, but to try and improve the club. That’s part of our plan. My job is to work with that.
“My job is not to get too caught up in the comments of others because a lot of managers who work for clubs at this level will be spending money and will be judged by how well we spend money and bring players in, and be judged by how well we coach them and the results we get.”
Chelsea’s big spending has set the adrenaline racing amongst the club’s fan base with five senior transfers having come in and the Blues having now moved on to signing Mendy.
Such is the pace of change at Stamford Bridge that fans are drawing up their own shortlists of future signings, with West Ham’s Declan Rice a possible further piece of business to come late in the market. However, Lampard was keen to paint a different picture, saying that the club’s work in the market has been planned for a number of months.
“It was a joined-up effort which we did with the transfer ban to have a long run to look at areas in the squad that we felt we wanted to improve, to have those conversations to try and sell the club and the vision of what we want to do to those players and try and bring them in, and I understand the hard work of it,” he concluded.
“It’s not as easy if I felt it would be [like] a computer game, you would feel like a kid in a candy shop because everything would just work because that’s the way it works. In real life it doesn’t.
“It’s the start of the process for us, trying to make the right moves with the squad from where we were at the back end of last season and now my job continues in how I work with those players. I’m very focused on it. I’m not getting caught up in the glamour or talk of the signings now they’re here. We just all want to work.”