Frank Lampard considers Lionel Messi to be “the most incredible player” and his toughest opponent, with the Chelsea boss now looking to take inspiration from iconic figures at Barcelona.
During a distinguished career which carried him to the very top of the game, the new Blues manager crossed paths with the world’s best on a regular basis.
A number of meetings with Messi were taken in, with the Argentine forming part of a star-studded cast at Camp Nou which dominated the European scene under Pep Guardiola.
It was during that time that Lampard admits to having faced the toughest tests of his playing days.
He told UEFA’s official website when asked to pick out the finest players he faced: “Can I give you two answers? It’ll actually be three.
“The first one is Messi because he was the most incredible player – it was like you were playing against someone who’s not on the same level as all of us.
“The two players I always remember having the hardest time against were Xavi and [Andres] Iniesta at Barcelona. They just played football around you, and you didn’t get near them.
“It was football that wasn’t normal to me; it was different from anything else I came up against.”
Barca mastered the art of ‘tiki-taka’ around that time, with their high press and remarkable ball retention allowing them to dictate almost every game they took in.
Lampard is hoping to see the Chelsea side he has inherited adopt a similar mindset, with those at Camp Nou having set the standard for others to aspire to.
“What I certainly want to be is a team that are quite fluid and adaptable in the way that we play,” said Lampard.
“I don’t want to be stuck into one idea, one vision, one plan – I want the players to be adaptable, so that as we move forward, we can evolve.
“It might be daily, it might be weekly; it might be with formations, it might be with mindset. I want to be very open to that, and I want my players to be open to that.
“Intensity is everything for me. In a daily sense, how we train will be how we play. And intensity is many things. It’s not just physical, it’s also mental; it’s how you approach every day and every game.
“I had those times at Chelsea when I felt that when we were on it. We were competitive with each other daily; we would shout or lift someone up if they were training at a level that wasn’t good enough – that’s when we were at our best. So it should be. If you’re doing that daily, if you’re a group together, if you’re pushing each other on, that’s what brings a successful team.”
Lampard is determined to deliver success at Chelsea after returning to his spiritual home, adding on his ambition as a coach ahead of a UEFA Super Cup clash with Liverpool on Wednesday: “It is a defining thing in my life, because I took Chelsea home with me the minute I joined the club.
“When I look back, I’m delighted at what I managed to achieve, or what we did as a group, except for that we should have won more Premier League titles.
“I feel for this club deeply. Hence why I want to do so well here. Of course I want to do well for myself, I want to improve myself but at the same time I want this club to be where it belongs.”