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Lampard Should Compromise to Resolve Contract Saga

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Frank Lampard of Chelsea applauds the fans during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Wigan Athletic at Stamford Bridge on February 9, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Sean ColeContributor IMarch 13, 2013

With just three months left to run on his current deal, Frank Lampard's future is still uncertain. Negotiations have seemingly reached an impasse but, far from being a case of a loyal servant shabbily treated by club hierarchy, Chelsea are right not to cede to popular sentiment and the player's demands.

Length of contract has proved the major sticking point so far. A one-year extension on reduced terms is believed to have been offered as, although Lampard's experience would be much appreciated, at 34 his form and fitness can no longer be taken for granted.

He was always the most durable of performers, racking up 164 consecutive appearances in the Mourinho era, a Premier League record for an outfield player. These efforts have started to catch up with him, however, with the goal scoring midfielder missing the opening of this season through injury.

From this standpoint Chelsea's reluctance to make a longer-term commitment is understandable, prudent even. Instead, it is treated in the press as an aberration, an insulting way to treat a club legend just four goals shy of overtaking Bobby Tambling to become all-time leading scorer.

The ongoing evolution in the squad's demographic complicates the issue further. The old guard have been steadily phased out over the last couple of seasons to be replaced by promising young alternatives. The extent of this regeneration project means that players like John Terry and Frank Lampard, the former heartbeat of the team, are no longer certain of a starting spot.

Competition for the latter's preferred position behind the central striker has increased exponentially. In the form of Juan Mata, Victor Moses, Oscar, Marko Marin, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne (currently on loan at Werder Bremen), Chelsea now have a wealth of playmaker types to choose from.

Consequently Lampard has often had to settle for a place in the deeper bank of two this season. Used to playing off the front man, and previously felt too undisciplined to protect a defence, it's been a significant adjustment.

Reinvention of this kind is simply a matter of course for veterans eager to avoid obsolescence. This is perhaps best demonstrated by Ryan Giggs, who, once a flying winger, became a central midfielder of consummate control and poise when the searing pace faded.

He approaches his 40s still useful to the Manchester United cause, and such longevity can only be achieved by accepting a more marginal status. This is the area where Lampard seems unwilling to adapt. Accustomed to being an undroppable mainstay, should he remain at Chelsea beyond the summer there can be no such guarantees. 

He may have played a pivotal role in the most trophy-laden decade of the club’s history but, loath as he is to admit it, Lampard is now dispensable. The unfortunate truth is that his status as a club legend for whom supporters feel a great affinity counts for little when calculating future worth.

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