Chelsea ready to ditch Lampard
Published 22:58 07/01/12 By Paul Smith
Chelsea will honour the remaining 18 months of Frank Lampard’s contract – but won’t stand in his way if he wants to quit Stamford Bridge before then.
Although it’s unlikely Lampard will leave in the January transfer window, a summer exit appears more likely with Chelsea adamant they have no plans to extend his current contract.
The England midfielder has become increasingly frustrated as Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas prefers to use him as an impact player coming off the bench for big games rather than guaranteeing him first-team football.
The 33-year-old midfielder has maintained that he only finds and stays in his best form when he’s playing regularly.
In fact, Villas-Boas is the first Blues manager in Lampard’s 11-year career at the Bridge to undermine his status as a crucial figure in the trophy-hunting team. That lack of faith has put considerable strain on their relationship.
Lampard’s problems publicly surfaced when he was hauled off against Newcastle during his 500th appearance for the club.
He was axed for the make or break Champions League clash with Valencia.. and that was the first time since 2003 he had missed a crucial game for the club when fit.
He then faced the indignity of being dropped for the crunch Premier League clash with Manchester City, but came off the bench to score the winning goal from the penalty spot.
It’s the games Lampard is being selected for that have set the alarm bells ringing, and given him cause to think his days are numbered.
He was restored to the side for the 1-1 draw with Wigan on December 17 but axed for another crucial clash with title rivals Tottenham at White Hart Lane five days later.
Although he returned for the London derby with Fulham at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day he was substituted 16 minutes into the second-half and was demoted to substitute for the New Year’s Eve defeat against Aston Villa.
He started against Wolves last Saturday, and scored the winning goal late on to secure Chelsea’s first win in five games.
But there is a pattern developing.
Lampard misses the big games but makes the matches Chelsea are expected to win.
It’s the opposite to how Sir Alex Ferguson plotted Paul Scholes, and before him, Roy Keane’s careers at Manchester United.
The United legends were saved for the big European nights and critical League outings. Ferguson knew the level of performance they could produce against the best opponents. He also recognised the respect opponents had for the likes of Scholes and Keane.
AVB is also on a mission to get the high earning and ageing players off Chelsea’s books.
Nicolas Anelka has left and Didier Drogba is set to follow him in the summer leaving Lampard, Ashley Cole and John Terry as the last of the high earners at the club.
Terry is in a problematic situation with a court case on the horizon that could see him leave Chelsea if it goes against him. Cole is still highly rated by Villa-Boas while Lampard has to decide whether to put money before football.
He can continue to pick up £150,000 a week for 18 months and play a minor role or decide to move on for the guarantee of regular football elsewhere.
Frank is unlikely to be short of offers.
But his England place will come under threat soon.
One of his options is to go to America and play in the MLS like David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane.
Both LA Galaxy and the New York Red Bulls have made discreet enquiries about his availability.