Frank Lampard tried to persuade Chelsea to sign Erling Haaland before the Manchester City star established himself as the world’s most feared striker.
Haaland can fire City to the Premier League title when the leaders host Chelsea on Sunday.
The 22-year-old has enjoyed an incredible season with 52 goals in all competitions, including a record 36 in the Premier League.
Lampard got a glimpse of Haaland’s potential during his first spell in charge of Chelsea when he came up against the young Norwegian in a pre-season friendly while he was playing for RB Salzburg in 2019.
Haaland scored 28 goals in 22 matches that season, but stiff competition for his signature, combined with the fact not everybody at Chelsea was convinced about him, meant Lampard was left frustrated.
He eventually signed for Borussia Dortmund in 2020 and moved to City two years later after shining in the Bundesliga.
“I’ve got huge respect for him as a player, he’s a player I tried to bring to Chelsea the first time I was here,” Lampard told reporters on Friday.
“I was really keen to get him here but obviously that couldn’t happen. His level at that point was very clear, we played against him in a pre-season game for Salzburg.
“I think he’s special, I thought he’d adapt straight away just because of his level.”
Underlining Lampard’s regret at missing out on Haaland, the striker has scored as many times in the league this season as the entire Chelsea squad.
While City are chasing a treble, Lampard’s team are languishing in 11th place.
“I don’t know whether he would have decided to come here anyway but I was a big fan,” the Chelsea interim boss said.
“There are some of those that happen that people don’t know about that could have been this way, people talk a lot about mistakes and the things that could have been in football.
“I was pushing big. I’m not sure what the appetite everywhere else in the club was to do it. The competition was big to take him because he was an outstanding player.”