The 1st of July, 2001, Frank Lampard moves across London from West Ham United to Chelsea in an £11million deal.
The 9th of January, 2013, as of this writing no decision has been made regarding the future of Frank Lampard at Chelsea amid growing speculation that he will be allowed to leave in the summer (or sooner) when his contract expires.
The above statement is a remarkably strange one to say, only a year or two ago it seemed unfathomable that Frank would end his career anywhere other than Chelsea. But maybe what is even more unbelievable is what’s happened in between those two dates in 2001 and 2013 respectively.
In 2001 (and still today to a certain extent) £11million was a sizeable chunk of cash to part with for a player, but to say that Frank Lampard has been worth every penny would be the grossest of gross understatements. Back to back league titles in 2005 and 2006, Chelsea’s first for what felt like a lifetime (50 years to be exact).
A domestic cup double in 2007, another FA Cup in 2009, another League and FA Cup win in 2010 and that famous Champions League triumph in 2012. He is also now the joint second highest goalscorer in Chelsea’s history with 193 goals, not a bad accolade for a central midfielder.
He has also been Chelsea’s player of the season 3 times which is another record. Impressive further when you consider that this came during Chelsea’s most successful ever period. Even this season, when his powers are meant to be diminishing, Lampard has found the net 6 times in just 12 starts in all competitions.
To summarise, Frank Lampard is Chelsea. Still, despite a summer of high profile signings like Eden Hazard Chelsea sell more ‘Lampard 8’ shirts than they do any other. He is a hero to the fans who have seen him contribute significantly to numerous seasons that have ended in Chelsea honours. It’s this affinity with him that has seen fan forums and message boards over-flowing with pleas to the Chelsea hierarchy to keep Lampard at the club.
There will never be universal praise for any player (I know someone who doesn’t like watching Lionel Messi!) and there have been a few who think that the time is right for Frank to be moved on to make room for the next generation of Chelsea stars. But, even these messages have come accompanied by a big thank you to Lampard for all he has done for their beloved Chelsea.
The overwhelming majority however seem to think that Lampard still has something to offer the club. Perhaps many have looked on a little enviously at title rivals Manchester United as their fans seem to be able to enjoy their top stars for a little longer. Namely, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.
Both are fully in the twilight of their careers but both have been used expertly by Sir Alex. It’s perhaps this role that Chelsea fans envisaged for Frank, no longer first choice but still able to contribute. Better playing off the bench for Chelsea than utilising his talents elsewhere.
A number of Chelsea fans and members of the press have been quite quick to point out that Lampard wouldn’t have been treated the way he has, effectively kicked to the curb, if he was at Man United. They’re probably right.
Ferguson knows exactly how best to use players who are nearer the end of their career than the beginning. Scholes and Giggs are just the current examples. The same strategy was used for Edwin van der Saar, Teddy Sheringham, Gary Neville. And it’s this stellar track record with the elder statesmen that has actually seen United linked with a move for Lampard. Another once unthinkable occurrence.
The move looks unlikely but even if United are out of the picture there are still plenty of options left for Frank Lampard. The usual suspects from LA and Qatar have been rumoured to have an interest. But with all due respect to those two I firmly believe that Frank Lampard still has a role to play at the very top of the game. Whether that would be with a Premier League side like United, QPR or another is hard to say.
Today, tormentor of England at this summer’s Euro’s, Andrea Pirlo, has stated that Lampard could have another four years at the top if he were to join him at Italian side Juventus, and I think he’s right. The slower pace of Italy’s football could allow Lampard to age gracefully while still on football's European stage.
However, if I were a Chelsea fan I would want Frank to stay exactly where he is. Partly through sentimentality due to all the wonderful things he has done for the club. But also because I would feel that he still has so much to offer that Chelsea would be weaker without him.
Like I say, that’s what I would think if I were a Chelsea fan. I wonder if Roman Abramovich is a Chelsea fan too?