Frank Lampard has admitted that he was surprised to see Chelsea sell Nemanja Matic to Manchester United this summer.
A £40m move to Old Trafford for Matic has been on the cards since June, but the transfer appeared to be dead in the water after Man United signed Romelu Lukaku, Antonio Conte’s main target, for £75m last month.
But the Italian, with Matic keen on working with Mourinho once again, was eventually forced into letting the Serbian complete a transfer to United last week.
And Lampard has expressed his surprise at seeing Chelsea such an important player to a rival.
“I was surprised because selling to a direct rival isn’t the norm at the top end,” he said.
“It was a big deal when Chelsea sold Petr Cech to Arsenal. People at the club seemed to mull it over for quite a while and then out of respect for Petr and what he’d done, and the situation with [Thibaut] Courtois, they let him go.
“This doesn’t seem quite the same, but at the same time we don’t know whether Matic wanted to leave. Was it his dream to go and play for Manchester United? Did he want a new challenge at 29?
“There are a lot of variables that aren’t easy but from the outside, it does seem strange to let that player go to a direct rival — and he will improve them. It was certainly a position that Manchester United as a team needed to strengthen, and they’ve gone and done it with Matic.”
On the eve of the first Saturday of the new Premier League season, it is always worth consulting the mood of each camp before the marathon begins.
Tottenham Hotspur, for instance, have been lambasted publicly by one of their own players for a lack of ambition; Liverpool’s best player has handed in a transfer request; Pep Guardiola has made good signings but apparently still wants more; Arsenal are going through the same mental process they do every year, so no problem there.
And Antonio Conte, in more ways than one, has been rattled this summer. He is unhappy with the current squad at his disposal and Mourinho – heading into pre-season following a relatively trouble free summer and with his desired squad, save for a winger – can take plenty of responsibility for leaving the angry Italian short-changed on the eve of his side’s title defence.