Juan Mata says he identified Frank Lampard as a future manager the moment he set foot in Chelsea’s dressing room.
The duo were teammates at Chelsea for three years before Mata’s 2014 move to Manchester United and both played key roles in the Blues’ midfield.
Both are now preparing for Chelsea’s clash with United this weekend, although, whilst Mata looks likely to be involved as a player, Lampard will be watching from the touchline.
Speaking to Sky Sports, 32-year-old Mata says he is not surprised Lampard has risen to become Blues boss so early in his managerial career.
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He said: “You could feel from the first day that I arrived to Chelsea’s dressing room that he was a very intelligent man, that he knew a lot about football and he understood the game really well as a player.
“You could imagine that he would be a very good manager, like he’s showing now.”
The Spaniard says he is also well-aware of the threat that Chelsea can pose his side on Saturday, particularly after an impressive summer of spending.
He said: “Of course we are aware of their dangers, as we know they have signed many very good and important players.
“Attacking-wise, defending-wise they’ve got a great squad. So we know what they’re capable of and we need to be ready for that.
“But also we need to think we’re playing at home and if we play our football hopefully we’ll have chances and create scoring opportunities to get the three points.
“And of course, they’re a big rival for us because they’re challenging for what we’re challenging. A victory against them will be important, although we know it’s difficult.”
So, could Mata follow Lampard into management? He isn’t ruling anything out.
“I don’t know, to be honest,” he said.
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