London - As Frank Lampard talked about the game’s elite managers on Tuesday, he instantly referred to the greatest motivator of them all.
The Chelsea midfielder was reminiscing about the good times under Jose Mourinho before Chelsea’s final training session in the Amsterdam ArenA.
When Chelsea’s interim manager Rafa Benitez leaves at the end of the season, Lampard will be reunited with the Portuguese coach, who was the making of him.
Talks on Lampard’s new one-year contract began in February and he is about to announce that he has agreed an extension to 2014.
Lampard, who will captain Chelsea in a second successive European final this evening, said: ‘An elite manager is all about man-management and how you get on with players. Jose was the best.
‘He formed a spirit in the team that was formidable. We didn’t have a group mentality to win the league, but he brought it in.
‘If you are a top-level manager then you will already have top-level players, but getting the best out of them is the trick and it’s 70 per cent of the job.
‘I can’t play the same game that I did under Mourinho (first time around) when I had Claude Makelele behind me. Now we almost play with three No 10s (Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar) in the team and I’ve had to adapt my game.’
This evening Chelsea’s interim coach Rafa Benitez will ask Lampard to play in the holding midfield position that suits his refined role in the team.
It hasn’t stopped him from scoring goals and on Saturday, at Aston Villa, he scored the 203rd goal of his extraordinary career at Chelsea.
Despite his age, there is no let-up for Lampard and the 34-year-old midfielder will be named in Roy Hodgson’s England squad tomorrow.
The national team play the Republic of Ireland on May 29 and fly to Rio de Janeiro to play Brazil on June 2. Hodgson is travelling to Amsterdam today to watch the Europa League final, but Lampard’s place in a swollen squad is already assured.
These are good times for him and his experience will be crucial against Benfica this evening.
Lampard captained the team in the absence of suspended skipper John Terry in last season’s dramatic penalty shootout triumph against Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena.
Last night they were preparing for the possibility of extra time and penalties as they practised them for the first time since they reached the Europa League final.
Lampard, who took the third penalty in both Champions League finals for Chelsea and scored each time, admits the players rarely practise them.
He said: ‘Michael Ballack hardly ever practised a penalty when he was at Chelsea and he was one of the best penalty-takers I have played with.
‘I think it’s down to the individual. I have practised them with England many times in tournaments and we ended up losing them.’
Last May, on the flight to Germany, Chelsea’s keeper Petr Cech watched videos on an iPad of Bayern Munich’s players taking penalties and he will watch Benfica’s penalty-takers in Chelsea’s hotel this afternoon.
Cech said: ‘It doesn’t matter how we win the trophy as long as we win it. If it comes to penalties it will be nerve-racking for everyone and if you ask the supporters they would prefer us to win it a different way.’