Frank Lampard and Marcelo Bielsa’s fractious rivalry as Everton prepare to face Leeds

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The two were at the centre of controversy during Lampard’s time at Derby and relations have been frosty since.

Frank Lampard takes charge of just his third game as Everton manager on Saturday when he welcomes Leeds United to Goodison Park.

The Toffees beat Brentford 4-1 in the FA Cup before a crushing defeat at Newcastle during the week, as Lampard continues to familiarise himself on Merseyside.

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Saturday will bring an air of familiarity, however, with the arrival of Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa.

The two coaches have met five times during Lampard’s short spells as manager of Derby and Chelsea, with games dominated by the narrative of the spy-gate controversy that came to light in 2019.

The history between the two may be brief, but it is certainly fractious.


Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa alongside Rams manager Frank Lampard in the Championship play-off semi-final (Picture: Tony Johnson)Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa alongside Rams manager Frank Lampard in the Championship play-off semi-final (Picture: Tony Johnson)
Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa alongside Rams manager Frank Lampard in the Championship play-off semi-final (Picture: Tony Johnson)

In January 2019, police were called to Derby County’s Moor Farm training ground after reports of a suspicious man lurking around the perimeter fence.

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On arrival, they located the man who was on a public footpath with a pair of binoculars - there was no break in and no laws broken, but the police asked the man to leave.

The man was an employee of Bielsa who had been tasked with watching Derby’s training and gathering any information which may give Leeds an advantage.

The stunt caused outrage across British football media and cost Leeds £200,000 - a fine Bielsa insisted he paid as he bore the responsibility.

Extraordinary press conference

Under fire from the media and with his morals in question, Bielsa called an impromptu press conference - there were murmurs that he was set to resign.

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What played out was perhaps one of the most extraordinary press conferences in Premier League history, as Bielsa spoke uninterrupted for over an hour.

He had brought in a vast collection of dossiers and had a presentation set up, the contents of which outlined exactly how much analytical work he and his team had put into every team in the Championship.

Journalists interacted only when asked to pick any Championship game from that season, to which Bielsa would load up all the information gathered and interpret the data.

The presentation garnered huge attention - both positive and negative - and caught the eye of Lampard who quipped in his next press conference “Are you all ready for my presentation?”.

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The pair meet in the play-offs

As fate would have it, Leeds were to play Derby in that season’s play-off semi-finals in what turned out to be one of the most dramatic ties in recent memory.

Spy-gate dominated the narrative and when Leeds won the first-leg 1-0 at Derby, the away support mocked Lampard, singing ‘stop crying Frank Lampard’ to the tune of Oasis’ stop crying your heart out.

Lampard had the last laugh, however, as his Rams went to Elland Road and won 4-2 in a chaotic second-leg to progress to the final.

Derby’s players - and Lampard - were on the pitch pretending to have binoculars and singing the very same song in irony after the final whistle.

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Lampard looks back on Spygate

In an interview on Gary Neville’s The Overlap in December, Lampard spoke about the spygate situation, explaining how he had to exaggerate his outrage somewhat.

He said: “You know what? It’s a hard one for me. It really came across that I was really angry about it, and I kind of was, but it was more my game face.

“If I stepped out and said ‘everyone does that, who cares?’, it would have…

“I felt it was a bit out of order. The spy thing came the day before we were playing them, and Harry Wilson was injured.

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“So he wasn’t in the shape that we did and we did a few set pieces. But it wouldn’t have changed the game, they beat us the next day.

“I felt it was a little bit offside. It was a little bit wrong, and I had to defend that. I can’t come out and say that, I had to just say ‘it’s out of order’.

“The good thing for me is that it did get the bit between my teeth…”

Lampard and Bielsa met briefly in the Premier League last season when Chelsea beat Leeds 3-1 at Stamford Bridge.

Saturday will be their sixth meeting, with Bielsa currently winning the head-to-head 3-2.

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