Chelsea must follow United’s example and keep Lampard

There have been numerous undignified and undeserved departures from Stamford Bridge during the past few years, but the one rumoured to be next would surely be the most ridiculous of all.

If reports are to be believed, Frank Lampard will not be offered a new contract and will be leaving Chelsea either when his current deal expires next summer or even in the January transfer window.

It goes without saying most fans are horrified by the prospect and also utterly baffled – and so are supporters of rival teams and most of the media.

Getting rid of a man who has done so much for the club and who obviously cares about Chelsea so deeply is bad enough – but Sunday’s win at Everton showed it’s not just the past that proves Lampard should stay. He has so much to offer in the present and future too.

Lampard’s two goals – which took him to 192 for the Blues, just one behind Kerry Dixon and 10 off Bobby Tambling’s long-standing club record – won a tricky game against a good side.

And it was a game in which Chelsea should frankly have been more than one goal down after half an hour.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Everton v Chelsea - Goodison Park
Lampard scored twice against Everton

Lampard’s goals showed he can still find the net while playing in a deeper position, meaning that even if, at the age of 34, he can’t be the same box-to-box in every game-type midfielder he’s been since joining Chelsea in 2001, he can still be a goal threat.

But his performance was about more than goals.

Everton’s bright start to the game saw Chelsea over-run but, when the tables were turned and Chelsea started to get back on top, it was the midfield pairing of Lampard and David Luiz that made it possible.

They were snuffing out Everton’s game and picking out perfect passes for Chelsea’s attackers to run on to, stretching the Everton defence.

This created several chances for the likes of Mata, Ramires and Torres but also made the holes that Lampard was able to run into to score the goals which gave us our first win at Goodison Park for five seasons.

It may well be that at his age Lampard can’t play in every game any more but the idea we can jettison a man still capable of performances of this calibre is laughable.

If he is released, top clubs challenging for trophies around Europe will be queuing up to sign him – and that should tell its own story.

This season Chelsea have won nine of the 10 Premier League games Lampard has played in and drawn the other. In the eight he has missed there has only been one victory.

The difference is stark and I am sure it will not be lost on Roberto Di Matteo.

The run of poor form which cost him his job as manager coincided almost exactly with Lampard’s time out injured – when he picked up his knock Chelsea were unbeaten in the league and had a win and a draw from two games in the Champions League.

By the time he returned there had been a collapse significant enough to prompt the hierarchy into ushering Di Matteo to the door.

How different the past couple of months might have been if Lampard had stayed fit.

But there have been other telling signs of Lampard’s contribution.

When Chelsea played Leeds in the League Cup it might have just looked like a match against a nondescript Championship team to some of our overseas players.  But Juan Mata revealed Lampard had been educating them all on how important the rivalry between the two clubs was for the Chelsea fans.

Even if he were not still one of the finest midfielders in the country, images like this from behind the scenes ought to show Lampard is worth keeping for his positive influence around the club.

The fact he performs both roles makes his potential departure even more mystifying.

It’s been said many times that Manchester United’s handling of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes should be a model for how Chelsea handle the closing years of Lampard’s career

The reason it’s been widely said is it’s completely right.

As the United pair passed into their late 30s, they played in fewer games but were still integral to the club and the team and were looked after accordingly, given respect and have still performed brilliantly in big games when called on.

Lampard should be allowed to do the same – and he’s still good enough to be as much of an asset as Giggs and Scholes have been to United.

He’s also intelligent enough to realise that a gradual slowing down and not playing in every single match is inevitable as he gets older.

Chelsea fans are already dismayed enough by the prospect of him going to be chanting his name even more than usual at matches and to start up Twitter campaigns to petition for him to stay.

If the calls fall on deaf ears and Lampard does go, the backlash which greeted the appointment of Rafael Benitez as manager could pale into insignificance compared to the anger of fans at the departure of their hero – a Chelsea legend, the best goalscoring midfielder in England for decades, a fine representative of the club and a man who clearly wants to stay.

James Clarke is the author of Moody Blues: Following the second-best team in Europe

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