The Apprentice and the Master

The great Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master.”

It is often stated that the relationship and the bond developed between the apprentice and the master has always been special. The master’s infinite wisdom is met through the apprentice’s naivety. Often times, the relationship that gets forged reaps benefits for not just the individuals, but also the community through which these individuals interact with.

That’s been the case with Frank Lampard and José Mourinho. Sculpted by a passion to show their best selves, both of these individuals have made a lasting dent in the shiny ball which is football. Coming off a revolution initiated in Porto, Mourinho was a man on a mission. Often neglected and ostracized in his days as a player, he set out to become one of the finest managers. This goal to become one of the best managers in football, paired with Chelsea Football Club’s initiative to be one of the best clubs, was a match made in heaven. Through money, trophies and heavy passion, this abstract concept was forged into reality when Chelsea snatched up José.

José’s relentless pursuit for a trophy and Chelsea’s unmatched money fueled a transfer binge that included the likes of Arjen Robben, Petr Čech, and Ricardo Carvahlo. But before that, there was a certain Frank Lampard, bought in 2001 from West Ham.

No one is sure what Mourinho saw in Lampard but that is often the case for masters. They see where none do and say when most speak.

Nonetheless, the move was critiqued.

Yet again, José defended and sought something which the mass could not see.

Lampard was an instant hit. His work rate and his technical abilities were just the start. A leader on and off the pitch, Lampard was a fan favorite, even with rival fans. No matter what, he always kept his cool. This calm nature transcended itself onto the pitch, where his commanding presence would calm the players. His intelligence transcended the boundaries of tactical nous, so much to the extent that it was like having José himself play on the pitch, guiding every action, pass and movement.

And with his apprentice, the master conquered. A legendary first season followed by a very strong second season, Mourinho changed the outlook of us club. No longer was Chelsea a irrelevant club. It was the beginning of a powerhouse of a movement.

While José orchestrated the tactical prowess at Chelsea, the young Lampard was there. Consistently learning, implementing and teaching. Moulded by Mourinho’s excellent man management at the time, Lampard grew to be indestructible. His passes were visionary. His late runs into the box were unstoppably lethal. Mourinho became the biggest factor of Chelsea’s and Lampard’s growth. Chelsea won league titles while Lampard continued amassing individual trophies and being showered by praise from legends. This relationship between these two personnel transformed the world and perceptions but more importantly, it helped change life for Chelsea fans, and one example couldn’t be more clearer.

January 2005. It is Chelsea versus United, a classic matchup. The air is windy and the night starry. There is something special about that night, as is customary at Old Trafford. As the two teams walk onto the pitch, you can sense a sense of swagger, a sense of victory. That was always the case with Mourinho’s teams. Leading the team with a confidence that few could match, Lampard looked around. The Red Sea had not parted; only a small sea of blue floated in stands. That small sliver of blue was where his heart lay. With a performance for the ages, Lampard scored an extraordinary goal and led Chelsea to a 2-1 victory. Afterwards, Mourinho looked at Lampard with the affection and pride a father looks at his son with. The love between these two had forgone the moulding and hardened into solid steel.

Lampard would go on to win many individual trophies and awards while Mourinho would become a repeated visitor, visiting Madrid and coming back. Throughout these years, change happened.

Change is the catalyst of life. It drives human beings, it triggers emotions, and it makes a man for better or for worse. Yet there is something hidden in the change between Lampard and Mourinho.

The love remains. It’ll always be. Yet the individuals that harbor the love changed.

Perhaps it’s symbolic that for the cycle to complete itself, it took fourteen years. Fourteen years of phenomenal joy and sadness for both both of the pupil and the sage.

Maybe it was luck on Tuesday that sent Frank Lampard’s Derby County through against José Mourinho’s Manchester United. Maybe it was the ball deciding that on September 25, 2018, it would favor the underdogs. Whatever might these reasons may have been, one thing is certain and set in stone.

Lampard, a boy with big dreams, was taken under the teachings of José. And after fourteen years, the pristine pupil who the teacher loved has surpassed him. After a full cycle, the apprentice has outsmarted the aging master.

Lampard can rest assured. He isn’t a poor pupil anymore.

By: Abhishek Mishra

Photo: Getty