July 1, 2013: first day of life after Frank
So now we know. It’s actually official. Chelsea will not be offering Frank Lampard a new contract at the end of the season. Some will be happy about that. Many more will undoubtedly not be. A few others probably won’t give much of a stuff.
With so much brouhaha careering the club’s way for letting the midfielder go and an equal amount of radio time and column inches dedicated to extolling Lampard’s continued value, it feels as if the board have bagged up everyone’s favourite animal of Farthing Wood and are heading down to the canal with a baseball bat and a suitable amount of concrete.
I do not want to alarm superstitionists but you may want to double check your Mayan calendar. It might just be that the end of the world is set for July 1, 2013 - Day one of life without Lampard at Stamford Bridge.
Both sides of the debate have merit. Chelsea will say, at 35 this year, Lampard is no longer worth his place in a side starting to re-evolve, both in terms of salary and what he has left to offer as a player.
Lampard acolytes will point to his sustained excellence over more than a decade, his largely unblemished fitness record and his greatest asset - his goals. All 193 of them.
There is no doubt Lampard has been a brilliant player, for a very long time. He still is a very good one. But, in the bonkers world that paid him millions to kick a ball about, he has to accept that one day someone will come and take the ball off him and give someone else his money, or probably not as much, to kick it instead. That’s the way it works. And you enjoy it while you can.
In pretty much every way, bar perhaps sentiment, Chelsea’s decision makes complete sense. It’s not as if Lampard’s departure would leave them short.
With Roman Abramovich spending more than £70m on the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Victor Moses and Marko Marin, not to mention the £17m splashed on Romelu Lukaku who is ripping up redwoods on loan at West Brom, Chelsea are well stocked. Understandably Ambramovich and his manager (whoever that eventually turns out to be) wants to start seeing a consistent return on some of the cash and Lampard is an unnecessary impediment to that.
Lampard deserves to be given a legend’s send off though. He deserves his statue, suite name or plaque and the disappointment he feels at not being able to carry on in Chelsea blue will probably be eased a little by re-employment elsewhere. If he’s not too fussy about which continent that might be on, the slump in his bank balance may not be as deep as the one in his heart.
He still has something to offer. Just not at Chelsea.