Chris Lakey: Who’s the cheapest commodity on the King’s Road?
- Credit: PA
Frank Lampard strained reality this week when he was favourite in two very different betting markets in the space of just a few hours.
On Wednesday he was the odds-on favourite to become the next Chelsea manager.
Twenty four hours later, after his appointment was confirmed, he became favourite to be the first Premier League manager sacked in the new season.
It is a remarkable achievement which says as much about gambling as it does about the vagaries of working in football.
In the small print of the headline-grabbing stories though is a financial figure that seems completely out of a kilter in a game which does tend to believe it is dealing with chocolate coins and Monopoly money at times, such is their willingness to splash extraordinary sums of cash on human flesh.
Lampard will cost Chelsea the princely sum of £4m. It isn't a transfer fee, it is compensation to his previous employers, Derby County - but £4m does seem rather a paltry amount given the weighty responsibility managers carry on their shoulders.
Lampard is a Chelsea playing legend, who returns amidst much fanfare and when he stands on the touchline at Stamford Bridge on August 17 (their first home league game of the season) the euphoria will begin to die down and the analysis will begin. When the fans' adulation dies down, he will be a man alone. No matter that he won't kick the football in anger over 90 minutes, Frank Lampard will have a spotlight on him that carries more power than the floodlights around the ground.
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If he fails, the light will go out. It doesn't matter if Roman Abramovich has given him free rein, bags of time and a bottomless pit of money. If Chelsea don't win points and trophies, Lampard will be looking for a new job. The buck stops with him.
On the pitch, 11 players will be expected to do as he tells them. If they fail, they won't be sacked. They might be dropped, but they won't be shown the door.
Those players include the likes of Kepa Arrizabalaga, a goalkeeper they bought for £71m; Jorginho, who cost £50m, N'Golo Kante, a player they signed for £30m but who is probably worth two or three times that in the current market; Christian Pulisic, who cost £58m. Chelsea's squad is worth hundreds of millions of pounds. Yet the manager has a measly £4m price tag on his head.
How does that happen?
I do dread the day when managers go for £50m a throw, but the fact that a manager's services can be dispensed with so easily does suggest the vulnerability of the position is not reflected in their 'value'. Footballers can be vulnerable at times, but in general they are in a much safer position than their 'gaffers'.
The other thing is salary: Lampard is, apparently, on £4m a year now. That's £77,000 a week. It's far less than most of his players are earning but, apparently, the contract is packed with incentives.
But if Lampard doesn't do the business, the incentives won't kick in and his weekly salary, whilst incredible for most people, will be paltry compared to most of those around him. Smacks of man-management issues to be sorted there ...
And here's a thing - Lampard took Derby to the Championship play-off final, where they lost to Aston Villa. Daniel Farke took City to the Premier League via the old-fashioned way of finishing top of the Championship.
Would you be happy if he was 'sold' for £4m?