Lampard talks make perfect sense for Chelsea

Posted by Phil Lythell

Darren Walsh/Chelsea/AP ImagesSeven years ago, Frank Lampard and Roman Abramovich were celebrating a Premier League title. With Lampard nearing the end of his career, the relationship has changed.

The rumours that Chelsea are willing to open talks with Frank Lampard has seen social media platforms ablaze with discussion over the veteran potentially extending his stay at Stamford Bridge. Ever since the news was broken by Neil Ashton in the Daily Mail, tongues have been wagging and keyboards clicking, though it must be emphasised that there were no attributed quotes in the story and the club itself have followed their usual party line of not commenting on speculation regarding transfers or contract negotiations.

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Nevertheless, it has seen a debate rage over the reasons behind this apparent change of heart by the Blues hierarchy just weeks after the player was informed that he would not be offered a new deal and could search for employment elsewhere. The most visible of those debates has been whether the decision is being based on the player's practical contributions to the team or is just a sentimental move designed to curry favour with disgruntled supporters as well as rewarding a true Chelsea legend for everything he has given the club.

On the surface it appears to be bit of both.

Lampard's goal return this season has been little short of spectacular yet again. His strike at Newcastle ensured that he was only the second player after Alan Shearer to score 10 goals in 10 different Premier League campaigns.

In fact, he supersedes the former England captain in that he has managed that feat in consecutive campaigns and therefore is the only player ever to have accomplished that feat. Those 10 goals have come in just 17 matches and that tally could have been even greater but for the injury that saw him miss seven weeks of action before making his comeback in the FIFA Club World Cup.

In all he has 15 goals in all competitions for Chelsea and England including that sumptuous controlled finish Wednesday against Brazil, proof the 34-year-old has lost none of his sharpness at the business end of the field.

Some will argue that goals are not everything and it is true that Lampard is not quite the force that he was few years ago. He is yet to provide a single assist in the Premier League this season, a far cry from the 17 he accumulated in the title-winning 2009-10 campaign – when he scored an astonishing 22 league goals – and he has been usurped as the fulcrum of Chelsea's attacking play by the magical Juan Mata.

Yet much of that can be attributed to a change of system that requires him to play much deeper. He is still able to make his trademark late runs into the penalty area but his new role sees him prompting the play in the final third far less than in previous years.

In addition, it has to be admitted that his switch to a more defensive position has not been an unqualified success. Lampard looks to be the perfect foil to David Luiz or John Obi Mikel in the double pivot, less so when partnered with Ramires as neither find the holding role to be a natural fit. When placed alongside Luiz or Mikel, he has more license to concentrate on switching the play; with Ramires, the two have struggled to work effectively in tandem.

The benefit of having Lampard play in that position is that his vision remains exceptional and he is able to play intelligent angled passes quickly to his more advanced teammates. He may not be getting the assists next to his name but he is still playing his part in goal-scoring moves.

Even if his powers are on the wane, there remains a compelling argument to keep Lampard on the payroll. Politically, it makes sense for the Chelsea board to bow to the supporters' demands and give their hero a new contract. The high of winning the Champions League has been tempered by some poor transfer dealing and the rash sacking of fan favourite Roberto Di Matteo, with public enemy No. 1 Rafael Benitez stepping into the breach.

There has been vocal revolt at this turn of events and Roman Abramovich is seeing his judgement being criticised openly by supporters for the first time in almost a decade as the owner. It is unlikely Abramovich makes too many decisions based upon cultivating his popularity, though no dictator can survive without a considerable power base.

On a less Machiavellian note, retaining Lampard would do wonders for the public image of Chelsea FC. The England international is universally popular among the media and now even receives grudging praise from rival clubs' fans that previously regarded him as overrated and excelling solely due to the raft of talented players around him.

He is eloquent, intelligent and is no longer associated with the wag culture that turned many people against the so-called "Golden Generation" in the first decade of this century. In much the same way that Sir Bobby Charlton is the embodiment of Manchester United, Frank Lampard is the perfect ambassador for Chelsea – infinitely more so than John Terry - and is somebody who is widely appreciated not just nationally but globally, even if he lacks the stage-managed charm and fashion savvy of David Beckham.

Lampard is also worth keeping around to hold up as an example for the youngsters at Chelsea to follow. Every manager who has ever worked with him has cited his peerless professionalism as one of his key attributes.

He has put in extra hours on the training ground since his teenage days, never resting on his laurels, determined to make the most of each and every ounce of his talent. That attitude will not fade as the years go by and for trainees and young professionals watching him train with the same enthusiasm every single day can only be a positive influence.

And even if it is solely based on sentiment, so what? If anybody has deserved a luxury contract it is Frank Lampard. He has been the driving force during the most successful period of Chelsea's history and has justified every single penny that has been spent on him.

After all, can you put a price on the two goals he scored April 30, 2005 at Bolton that brought the title to Stamford Bridge for the first time in 50 years? Or the goal at Liverpool in 2010 that put Chelsea on the verge of another championship? Or the penalty against the same opposition in the semifinal of the Champions League just days after his mother passed away?

The list could go on forever but the point has been made. Lampard represents the best £11m the club has ever spent.

But there could be another reason that Abramovich has reportedly changed his mind and that could be upon the wishes of a prospective manager. It would make sense that any discussions with potential appointments would include the issue of the playing staff and the personnel that that person might desire to be as successful as possible. And we all know the name of the manager who told Lampard that he was the best player in the world and has subsequently told everyone else that he is the best professional he has ever worked with.

A certain Jose Mourinho.

Could it be that the texts that have supposedly been exchanged of late between the billionaire and the "Special One" have concerned a possible return to Chelsea and the retention of Lampard's services? Fanciful perhaps, but stranger things have happened in football.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell

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