With Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich facing severe sanctions from the UK government, former player and manager Frank Lampard has denied having personal relationship with the embattled Russian oligarch.
British authorities Thursday announced sanctions against Mr Abramovich over his alleged ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin who ordered invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Questioned on his relationship with his former employer, Lampard in a press conference on Friday said he is not close to Mr Abramovich.
“No. One of the questions earlier said I’m close to Roman Abramovich,” Lampard said. “I could count on one hand how many times I’ve seen him in the last many years I worked for Chelsea.”
Lampard, 43, joined Chelsea from West Ham in 2001, winning the EPL, FA Cup and Champions League during his career at the Stamford Bridge until 2013-2014, when he left the club.
Lampard returned to Chelsea as a coach in July 2019, despite concerns about his scanty managerial experience. His appointment was thought to be influenced by his cordial relationship with Mr Abramovich from his playing days.
He, alongside former captain John Terry and influential striker Didier Drogba, was powerful force in Chelsea dressing room in their hay days owing to their direct nexus to the owner.
After he was sacked in January 2021 for strings of poor results, a taciturn Abramovich, notorious for dispatching underperforming managers with reckless abandon, went out of his way to release a statement detailing his regrets for sacking Lampard.
“This was a very difficult decision for the Club, not least because I have an excellent personal relationship with Frank and I have the utmost respect for him,” Mr Abramovich wrote. “He is a man of great integrity and has the highest of work ethics. However, under current circumstances we believe it is best to change managers.”