Will he, won’t he? That seems to be the question on most people’s lips after the England-Brazil match- will Abramovich offer Frank Lampard a new contract or won’t he? Some papers have been stating that the Russian billionaire has done a spectacular U-turn and caved in to the demands of the Chelsea faithful and most of Fleet Street and is set to offer the ageing midfielder a contract extension. But is that really the case?
For the past several months the likes of Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen, Harry Redknapp and the journalists in Lampard’s camp have all come out in support of keeping him at the club for another couple of years. After all, he’s been a terrific servant for the club, wears his heart on his sleeve, marshaled the middle of the pitch and is about to break the club’s scoring record. On top of that, he’s even banging them in for England against the Samba Boys, as everyone screams from the rooftops and redtops, ‘Roman- give him a new contract!’
Lampard, his agent and insiders have all come out and said that he wants nothing more than to see out his career at the club he loves and a two-year extension would be ideal. And we’re sure it would be. Listening to his camp, he can still do a job and change his style of playing to suit the team. Scholes and Giggs are doing it for Manchester United, so why can’t Lampard do it for Chelsea? That’s all he wants, right?
Yes, but it’s not as simple as that. Andre Villas-Boas was brought in to overhaul the team from top to bottom and cut loose the deadwood that the owner deemed was clogging up the changing room. The team had become, in his eyes, older, slower, more tired and in need of an urgent rejuvenation and makeover.
Abramovich wanted swashbuckling, fast, free-flowing football at The Bridge, which meant that the older players would be on their way out. That was the plan anyway, but Villas-Boas, under Abramovich’s instructions, tried to cull the team too drastically and too quickly, leading to a club-wide mutiny. The fact is, AVB tried to do too much too soon and the players did their best to prove to the owner that they wouldn’t play for a manager who was roughly the same age as Lampard and Drogba.
When Abramovich finally put AVB out of his misery in March last year, he held a meeting with the players at the training ground and furiously told them that he held all of them personally responsible for the manager’s dismissal. The old guard- Lampard, Terry, Drogba, Malouda and Kalou- were seen as the main instigators of the dressing room revolt and Abramovich, who had personally chosen AVB as Chelsea’s new manager only to see his decision spectacularly rammed down his throat in such a public manner, would not let that slight go unanswered. Paradoxically the fact that the same group of players then went on to become Champions of Europe went against them because if showed that they had indeed played well below their capabilities under AVB. Abramovich was not going to let this go.
One by one the main suspects have been slowly shipped out. Don’t forget, Drogba is the same age as Lampard, in better physical shape and scored the goal that secured the Champions League trophy for Abramovich in May, but at this level of sport sentimentality doesn’t mean a thing and he was soon gone. The Lampard Conundrum, and that is what it is, becomes a lot clearer when we take the view that it is not a footballing decision; it’s personal.
It comes down to who’s really in charge at Stamford Bridge. Because no matter what players achieve in their time at a club, they are just employees. Abramovich has let the Old Guard influence too many things in the past, but on this occasion he drew a line in the sand. Lampard could score enough goals to help win the title, but regardless of what happens, his days at The Bridge look well and truly numbered.
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