Frank Lampard has saluted Claudio Ranieri for guiding Leicester City to the Premier League summit and credited the Italian for his success after they parted ways at Chelsea.
The 37-year-old midfielder, now playing for New York City, lifted three titles with the Blues, two under José Mourinho and one with Carlo Ancelotti, but it is Ranieri who he believes deserves the credit for his trophy-laden career.
The former Valencia, Juventus and Internazionale manager signed Lampard from West Ham United for £11m at Stamford Bridge in 2001 but was sacked three years later for failing to deliver a Premier League or Champions League title.
“I owe him everything,” Lampard told the Daily Mirror. “If it wasn’t for Claudio, I wouldn’t have had the career I had. I wouldn’t still be playing, probably.”
Under Ranieri’s management, Leicester are five points clear atop of the Premier League and hold an 11 point cushion to fifth-placed West Ham with nine matches remaining.
After winning 23 points from a possible 27 in the reverse fixtures of their remaining games, the Foxes have been installed as favourites as the established order all conspire to throw away points at will.
“They are on the brink of something special,” added Lampard, whose New York side defeated Chicago Fire on the opening day of the Major League Soccer campaign in the United States.
“Even if they don’t win the league, but get in the Champions League, that’s an incredible achievement in itself. It’s great for the Premier League; it couldn’t happen in Spain, Germany or Italy.
“No disrespect to Leicester, but, if he takes a team like them into the Champions League, with the players they have, he deserves incredible praise. He’s got the best out of certain players. He’s given hope to [top-flight leading goal-scorer] Jamie Vardy.
“We’ve all been waiting for that moment when Leicester go and it hasn’t come. I’m delighted for Claudio. He deserves it for the career that he’s had.”