x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Frank Lampard's time looks to be up at Chelsea

No extension talks on the horizon for the England midfielder, who is set to face Queens Park Rangers.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 22: Frank Lampard of Chelsea scores the opening goal from the penalty spot during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Reading at Stamford Bridge on August 22, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 22: Frank Lampard of Chelsea scores the opening goal from the penalty spot during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Reading at Stamford Bridge on August 22, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Frank Lampard's future at Chelsea has dominated the build-up to their game against Queens Park Rangers tonight following yesterday's opening of the transfer window.

The England international's contract expires in the summer and as each day goes by without the opening of talks on an extension to his current deal, which expires in the summer, it appears increasingly likely that his 12th season at Stamford Bridge will be his last.

The midfielder is 34, but there will be no shortage of suitors, with Manchester United being added yesterday to the list of potential destinations, which already included Paris Saint-Germain, QPR and China.

Lampard's two goals in Chelsea's 2-1 victory at Everton on Sunday were examples of his worth.

Of the 11 Premier League games he has played in this season, Chelsea have won 10 and drawn one.

But Lampard is more than just a lucky omen. His energy remains undiminished, his pass selection has probably got better with age and he still has a knack of arriving in the box at just the right time in just the right place.

It may be that as he has matured, he has become a better player. Perhaps he does not buzz so much, perhaps he cannot reel off game after game as he once did, but he has developed a discipline that means he can offer an option by playing deeper in the midfield to link attack and defence.

Since returning to fitness at the beginning of December, Lampard has started five of Chelsea's eight games and has come off the bench in two of the others.

Over the packed Christmas schedule, and with the Club World Cup thrown in, that is the workload of a first-team regular. Rafa Benitez, Chelsea's interim manager, seems to have faith in him.

The question is whether Roman Abramovich does.

There were chants and banners at Goodison Park - as there were at Stamford Bridge when Chelsea beat Aston Villa 8-0 - urging the Chelsea owner to offer Lampard a new deal but there is no sign the Russian cares for popular opinion.

He has been stung by player contracts before.

And there is also his experience with Roberto Di Matteo, a popular figure among Chelsea fans.

The Italian was initially appointed as a stopgap manager but was given a two-year contract on the back of Chelsea's Uefa Champions League win.

When Abramovich felt he had made a mistake Di Matteo was jettisoned. Whether the decision was right or wrong the Chelsea owner showed that he was not a man to be swayed by sentiment.

Ditching Lampard, a thirtysomething on high wages, may be the start of Chelsea's attempts to rein in spending with the club's most consistent player of the Abramovich years being sacrificed as a symbol of the shift into a new era.

 

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE