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Lampard, Terry subplot in world’s most lucrative soccer game

May 24, 2019
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FILE - In this Sunday, May 4, 2014 file photo, Chelsea's John Terry and Frank Lampard walk around the pitch at the end of their English Premier League soccer match against Norwich City, at the Stamford Bridge Stadium in London. Derby and Aston Villa meet at Wembley Stadium on Monday, May 27, 2019 in the League Championship playoff final as they look to secure promotion to the Premier League. Derby manager Frank Lampard and Villa assistant manager John Terry are recently retired former teammates for Chelsea and England who are in their first seasons in coaching. (AP Photo/Bogdan Maran, file)

They’ve won the Champions League together, were teammates for three Premier League title-winning campaigns, and stood shoulder to shoulder at World Cups and European Championships.

Whether in the blue of Chelsea or the white of England, Frank Lampard and John Terry were often inseparable.

Now, with their playing days over, they are going head-to-head as coaches.

In a match that has a strong Chelsea flavor, Derby and Aston Villa meet at Wembley Stadium on Monday in the League Championship playoff final. The prize is promotion to the Premier League and a windfall of at least 170 million pounds ($215 million), according to analysis by accounting firm Deloitte — making it the most lucrative one-off match in world soccer.

Away from the financial implications of the last match in England’s domestic season, the most intriguing aspect might be what goes on in the respective dugouts.

The 40-year-old Lampard is the rookie manager of Derby, seeking a return to the Premier League for the first time since that infamous 2007-08 season when the team collected only 11 points.

The 38-year-old Terry is the assistant manager at Villa, which was last in the top flight in 2016.

Both took their first steps in senior management this season and already look ready-made to transition from the field to the manager’s office with ease. It’s a safe bet that one, if not both, will be manager of their beloved Chelsea one day.

That move appears likely to come sooner for Lampard, who has even been linked with taking over from current Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri as early as this offseason. Much will depend on how Derby fares on Monday and how Chelsea gets on in its last game of the season — the Europa League final against Arsenal in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Wednesday.

Lampard’s iconic status at Chelsea is secure through being the club’s record scorer with 211 goals. He was the long-time vice captain to Terry, who was hailed as “Captain, Leader, Legend” in a banner draped across the Matthew Harding Stand at Stamford Bridge.

This is not the first time Lampard and Terry will have come across each other in the technical area. Villa and Derby, two teams from central England, have met twice in the Championship this season, with Villa winning both games by a combined score of 7-0.

Before the first game, Villa’s 3-0 away win in November, Lampard — the more visible of the two this season because he has to hold weekly news conferences — spoke about his relationship with Terry being “tight” even though they are “different personalities.”

On Monday, Terry will also likely come across Derby assistant manager Jody Morris, another former Chelsea player and good friend of Terry. Derby’s team includes veteran left back Ashley Cole, a key member of the England and Chelsea teams which Lampard and Terry played for, as well as youngsters Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount, who are on loan from Chelsea.

At Villa, the team’s star striker is Tammy Abraham, also on loan from Chelsea.

In the playoff semifinals, Derby and Villa beat clubs who finished above them in the Championship standings — Leeds and West Bromwich Albion, respectively — on the back of momentum from a strong run of results to end the regular season.

Villa, managed by Dean Smith, won 10 straight games from March 2 to April 22 to secure a spot in the playoffs. Derby lost only one of its last 12 matches following the 4-0 loss to Villa on March 2.

One team will eventually fall short, though, while the other can look forward to a cash bonanza of about 300 million pounds ($380 million), according to Deloitte — mostly from broadcast and commercial revenue — should it avoid relegation from the Premier League in its first season back.

Norwich and Sheffield United were promoted automatically from the Championship after finishing as the top two in the regular season.

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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80

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