LONDON (Reuters) - Frank Lampard’s goals have ensured he will always have a fond place in Chelsea fans’ hearts but with no contract extension on the horizon his future at the heart of the club looks increasingly doubtful.
The midfielder’s 191st and 192nd goals for Chelsea in their 2-1 win over Everton on Sunday took him to within one of Kerry Dixon in second place in the club’s all time scorer list, but there appears to be no room for sentiment as Chelsea’s powerbrokers prepare for next season.
“We haven’t been talking about a new contract in the last couple of weeks,” Lampard told the BBC.
“At the moment nothing has been said and my contract is up in the summer.”
Lampard, 34, has made more than 500 appearances for the club since joining from West Ham United in 2001 for 11 million pounds ($17.77 million).
He arrived with a bagful of potential but was moulded into one of Europe’s most feared attacking midfielders with an uncanny knack of timing runs into the box and a magnet for the loose ball.
His two goals against Everton showed that while the legs may not be able to carry him from box to box as they did in his heyday, his ability to be in the right place at the right time remains.
“I‘m enjoying playing, I‘m working hard in training, I‘m loving being part of the team,” he added.
“That is all I can tell you for the minute and that is enough for me I am happy with that - to keep playing well and to contribute to days like today.”
Chelsea have a new generation of attacking midfield players in Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard who are all capable of playing in the ‘hole’ while the high-energy Ramires patrols the central areas.
With further additions likely, Lampard would be wise to think hard about whether it is better to allow his star to wane on the fringes of the squad or go out on a high with his role in last season’s Champions League triumph still fresh in the mind.
With media reports suggesting other clubs would be keen to offer him a short-term deal, he would have to decide whether he would be happy to play a bit-part role at Chelsea in the manner of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs at Manchester United.
The Lampard situation reflects the harsh new dawn of UEFA’s financial fair play rules which mean high-earning individuals cannot be indulged purely on their past achievements.
The noises coming out of Stamford Bridge suggest Lampard’s future is in the hands of boardroom officials rather than interim manager Rafa Benitez, who was at pains to point out that his responsibilities are restricted to the training ground.
Benitez has brought steel to Chelsea’s previously porous defence and won four consecutive Premier League matches, but any traction he may have gained in the corridors of power does not extend to the drafting of contracts.
“My job is to keep Lampard fit. He is a good player. He is under contract, fully committed and working hard and that is the way. We cannot say too much about this,” Benitez said.
“My job is to win games, coach the players properly, and keep my opinion if I have to give my opinion,” he added. “The key part is to improve the players on the pitch.”
editing by Ed Osmond