The direction that the Chelsea hierarchy are looking to steer the club in is very clear. The world’s best young players are very much the agenda in the transfer market whilst the ‘old guard’ look as though they will be allowed to see out their contracts and walk away. Its all about the future. This began when Abramovich brought in Andre Villas-Boas last campaign, looking to usher in a new era at Chelsea. Whilst that experiment was ultimately a failure, it looks to be ‘take two’ as Chelsea’s owner looks set to push the club in that direction once again.
One of the players that looks likely to walk away from the club on a free transfer is quite possibly Chelsea’s greatest ever — 34 year-old Frank Lampard. Having missed a chunk of the early part of the season through injury, Lampard has become a key cog in Rafael Benitez’s new look side. It would have been natural to assume that his recent performances would have opened the eyes of the Chelsea higher ups, but media reports suggest Abramovich will remain unmoved on the issue.
The bottom line is that Chelsea should keep hold of Lampard because he is still a top class midfielder. There is no need to get too nostalgic when thinking back to some of his vintage performances. This is a man that led his team to Champions League glory merely eight months ago. Whilst Drogba grabbed the majority of the headlines throughout the competition, Lampard was massive in Chelsea’s triumphs over Barcelona, Napoli and Bayern Munich. The magnitude of his displays were significantly understated, lost in amongst the ensuing jubilation that followed the victory.
His outings in last season’s campaign demonstrated a real turning point in Lampard’s career. For players like him who have been renowned for their dynamic style, there comes a moment when they must adapt their game when age is slowly creeping up on them. The fluency of this transitional period often determines whether or not a player can go on to play into his mid-to-late thirties at the very top level (Scholes and Giggs are both prime examples of this, whilst Steven Gerrard is beginning to go through a similar stage). After years of familiarity, many players find it difficult to get out of this pattern, lacking the discipline and patience to change.
Lampard has adapted however. He has polished his all round game and developed into an excellent deep lying playmaker, whilst still being more than capable in a more advanced role. This means that in practice, Chelsea should be able to accommodate the England man, as well as Mata, Oscar, Hazard and Moses. His forward bursts are more sparing, but chosen with greater maturity and purpose. The man has a real ‘football brain’.
Chelsea has already seen how difficult it can be to replace an outgoing club legend. Didier Drogba left in a blaze of glory following that famous night in May. But nobody has stepped into the talismanic shoes following his departure. Latest signing Demba Ba looks to have been signed in an attempt to fill that Drogba-shaped hole in the side, but it is very early days for him. You worry the same could happen with Lampard. Goal-scoring midfielders like him are a dying breed in the modern game. He could prove to be even more difficult to replace.
One case Chelsea might want to look at is AC Milan, who themselves have seen a lot of their ‘old guard’ move on in the hope of replacing them with a crop of youngsters. They declined to offer star midfielder Andrea Pirlo a new deal in keeping with their new ideology. Pirlo has been making history at rivals Juventus ever since, playing probably the best football of his career. In similar circumstances, I have no doubt that Lampard would still be an attractive option for many of Chelsea’s immediate rivals, especially on a free transfer (Manchester United have been linked with a move in today’s press). Chelsea do not want to be in the same situation as AC Milan, watching ‘one of their own’ pulling up trees for a rival.
For a club that is looking to go in a new direction, you need to maintain some stability. It’s not a change that can be made overnight. Young players need experience alongside them to flourish, develop and learn. In this months ‘FourFourTwo’ magazine, Rio Ferdinand talks about David O’Leary’s famous young Leeds side and what stopped them from picking up silverware. “Experience” he said. “No one had the mentality. Nobody had been close to winning the title”.
Despite the flurry of managerial changes down the years, Lampard has been one of a few constants upon which trophy winning sides have been built. He could have such a positive influence on the young players that the club are trying to develop into the next superstars. Who better to show them exactly what Chelsea FC should mean?
I just have a feeling we might see a few more twists and turns in this transfer saga yet.
Do you agree? Is it the right time for Lampard to leave the club? Who could come in to replace him if he does go?
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