There comes a time for everything to end, but it does not make it any easier to stomach. Frank Lampard, Chelsea’s all-time top goal-scorer, will not renew his contract and so today (30th June) marks the last day of his 13 years at the Club.
It neither feels right, and does feel right, at the same time. Frank Lampard, so often Chelsea’s hero in matches, the guy to rally the side alongside John Terry, is now a 36 year old who is past his prime, but the sudden nature of his departure — why was there not word spreading before our final Premier League game so we could thank him properly? — will cause some shock.
But, on the face of it, this is the time for the man to go. He has done everything for this Club. 211 goals in 648 appearances is a remarkable feat and a testament to his consistency and how he looks after his body to maintain that level year in year out. Many of those came in big matches: two to seal our first Premier League title for 50 years in 2004/2005, 25 of them came in our winning of the FA Cup and Premier League double in 2009/2010. Factor in his assists — who can forget that delightful one-two with Didier Drogba to win us the first FA Cup at the new Wembley Stadium? — and you had the complete player, and an incredibly humble and smart human to boot. Lest we forget that Lampard has rarely caused us any PR concerns and has a mentality and attitude every professional should strive for. The way he handles himself in interviews and deals with unjustified hate from rival fans (Fat Frank?!) is admirable. But you just get a sense that, as a veteran of the game and his wage demands not falling, it is time for a new breed of members to come in. He will appreciate how he jumped into the Chelsea team as a young 23-year-old and, whilst Cesc Fabregas is 27, he is deemed his replacement and is still younger, but with no compromise on the quality or big-game know-how.
They say they we should not cry because it is over, but smile because it happened. And what a 13 years Lampard has had. Rewind back to 11th June 2001, and Chelsea had just forked out a sizeable £11 million on an unproven and raw talent, albeit a great talent. And whilst that move was met with scorn and a bit of anxiety, it is quite something when Sir Alex Ferguson goes on record to say “I must say we looked at him when he was at West Ham as a young player and I maybe regret not having done it. Where else could I get 200 goals?” And that was Lampard’s main attribute: fantastic timings to run into the box and poach a goal. He had a striker’s instinct and, without this next season, it places further emphasis on our actual strikers to deliver.
It will take up many lines to just write out all of Lampard’s club and personal achievements. Three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, one Champions League and one Europa League perhaps do not do him justice. Throw in his individual awards — four times Premier League Player of the Month, three-time Chelsea Player of the Year award winner, twice England Player of the Year, and second only to Ronaldinho in the World Player of the Year 2005 awards — and you feel very lucky as a Chelsea fan to have secured the services of such a great player for such a long time.
But, as fans, you still want to prolong that stay, for no-one wants to see him go. Not so much out of loyalty, but he can always offer something. Another year in a player-coach role, like Ryan Giggs had at Manchester United last year, would have appealed to us but maybe not Lampard himself, who can still offer a lot as a player and promotional figure ending his career in the States.
The event itself of Frank Lampard opting to leave is not the surprise. All good things come to an end and, with Chelsea and Frank Lampard, we have not just had a ‘good thing’, we have had a ‘fantastic thing’. But the nature of the departure and the timing surrounding it — it was just a quick statement from Lampard as he hurriedly caught the plane with England to go to the World Cup — will surprise many. Maybe it was as rash and spontaneous a decision as the revealing of it, or maybe Frank Lampard was calculated and did not want to go through the long goodbyes, for they do feel eternally more painful. One always wishes to leave on a high note and it is just a shame that, though I am sure he was delighted to end his Chelsea career with José Mourinho, he would have hoped to leave with a defining moment and a trophy, a la Didier Drogba.
All we know is that this is a guy who has given Chelsea more than what any other player has given Chelsea, and for that, Mr Frank James Lampard, we say thank you and goodbye.