Chelsea boss Frank Lampard admits he tried signing Manchester City striker Erling Haaland during his first spell with the club.
Haaland has 36 goals from 33 games in his first season with City.
Ahead of this weekend’s clash, Lampard said: “It’s a fantastic stat from him. I know the Chelsea side is a different story,” Lampard said. “But I have a huge respect for him as a player. He’s a player I tried to bring to Chelsea the first time I was here.
“I was really keen to get him here, obviously that couldn’t happen. His level at that point was very clear as well. We played against him in a pre-season game and he was fantastic.
“Credit to him. I love seeing players at that level, with that personality and hunger to play and be the best. In terms of having to deal with him, you have to have a plan and an idea, but players at that level can make anything happen at any moment.
“I’m sure the players have a good awareness of him. We have to try and be at our best to try and negate the things he does.”
On comparisons with Didier Drogba, Lampard continued: “I couldn’t compare him to Didier because they’re two different individuals at two different moments with their clubs.
“Haaland has just started out and his impact has been more instant and that’s a big credit to how he’s managed to do that, coming straight to the Premier League. Some people doubted that a little bit and he’s proven that for starters.
“Didier, over a really sustained period, did huge things for this club. There’s not a direct comparison but they’re two great strikers.”
Lampard also said: “I think he’s special and I thought he’d adapt straight away. I didn’t consider it that closely but I thought with the level of player, his record of scoring – firstly in Austria, for his country and then in the Bundesliga which is not an easy league. To come into a really good unit [Man City] already, that’s something that is a recipe to really help him and the rest is a credit to himself and the team around him. I did expect that [for Haaland to hit the ground running], it’s not just an easy hindsight answer. I have a real respect for the player.”
“I don’t know whether he would have decided to come here anyway. There are some of those that happen, aren’t there? Some that people don’t know about. I was pushing big for him and a few other players at the time, but he was the outstanding one.”
Asked how close Chelsea came to signing Haaland, Lampard added: “He’ll only know the answer to that.
“What stage did it get to? From our point, I was pushing it, I’m not sure what the appetite was everywhere else in the club to do it,” he added. “The competition was big to take him because he was an outstanding player. I think there was a buyout clause at the time which was relatively reasonable, maybe, considering the player. So all those things. I don’t have enough details to say how close it was.”