Letting Lampard go made sense – and he should be treated as a legend

Whatever your view on how Frank Lampard came to be playing for Manchester City, he is a Chelsea legend and deserves to be treated like one.

When he played for City against Chelsea in September Lampard got a reception fit for a Blues hero – both before and after he scored a painful equaliser against us.

But just a few months later, it seems when he comes to Stamford Bridge to play in the ‘wrong’ shade of blue on the last day of January, the welcome might not be quite so warm. And if he does get anything less than a rousing reception, it will be a terrible shame.

In the days when he was banging in goal after goal for Chelsea there must have been few – if any – of us fans who thought he would ever be facing us at the Bridge for a title rival. But he probably will be in just over a week.

The ins and outs of how he came to be in Manchester remain a bit unclear.

Frank Lampard of Chelsea

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But what might things have been like this season if Lampard had stayed? Would it have meant we would not have signed Cesc Fabregas, the man who has been so central to much of our scintillating play?

Jose Mourinho would almost certainly have wanted Fabregas, even if Lampard had stayed, but would Chelsea have been able to afford both men’s wages in the era of Financial Fair Play?

Chelsea with Lampard and Fabregas would have been lovely, but if it was one or the other then prioritising the future was probably the right move.

Lampard no longer fitted perfectly into the system Chelsea use; the Mourinho 4-2-3-1 tactics simply don’t play to his many strengths and would almost certainly mainly have been used as a substitute.

He’s been doing the same at City and it’s a shame he’s been doing it for them rather than us, but the game of a 36-year-old Lampard is rarely what the new Chelsea need from a sub.

Sometimes we need a midfield sub to shut up shop for the final few minutes – the game of a John Mikel Obi rather than a Lampard. And sometimes we need someone to inject a bit of energy – more a task for Ramires or Andre Schürrle than any 36-year-old.

Allowing Lampard to leave seemed to have more than a little to do with showing respect to a player who did not deserve a bit-part role at best.

So, with brutal honesty, while I would personally have loved Frank Lampard never to pull on another team’s shirt and to have been able to stay at Stamford Bridge for as long as he wanted, it may well be that the move was the right one for every reason other than the glow we would all have got from his extended presence.

But for 13 years the man was a Chelsea legend, one of the finest players to have worn the blue shirt.

Our all-time leading goalscorer, the captain when we won the Champions League and the goalscorer in the other final we reached. The scorer of league and FA Cup clinching goals, a deadly penalty taker. One of the world’s best players but also one of us – and a nice bloke.

And I would urge any Chelsea fan not to forget all those things just because Lampard ended up at Manchester City for a season when the club he loved couldn’t offer him the deal he needed to stay.

The legend status was well earned – and should remain.

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

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