For a long time it never looked like it was coming, and boy did they make him sweat for it. But less than 24 hours after winning the Europa League came the news that every Chelsea fan had longed to hear – Frank Lampard is to be handed a new contract by the club.
It has been a saga throughout the whole season to match any transfer or rumours of a managerial sacking, but the Chelsea board finally relented today and gave the club’s all-time top scorer a 12-month extension to the contract that was due to run out next month.
Lampard hinted as much in the aftermath of the Blues’ 2-1 win over Benfica in Amsterdam last night, and this morning it was confirmed that the 34-year-old England midfielder will remain at Stamford Bridge next season.
Although nobody can actually second guess the thoughts of owner Roman Abramovich, never mind fathom out the majority of his decisions, the initial call not to give the club legend a new deal seemed perverse given Lampard’s form this season.
Used sparingly by both Rafael Benitez and his predecessor Roberto Di Matteo, the former West Ham star has nonetheless scored 22 goals for club and country this season, 17 of which have come for the Europa League winners.
Those goals have helped Chelsea to European glory last night, a top-four finish in the Premier League and, almost as importantly, meant that Lampard has overtaken the Blues’ long-standing goalscoring record, set by Bobby Tambling.
Lampard’s brace in the 2-1 win at Aston Villa last week were his 202nd and 203rd goals for the club, and his place in the Chelsea history books is assured.
But what of the future?
bwin are betting on how many goals Lampard will score in the Premier League next season and go 17/20 that he scores under 10.5 goals and the same price he scores over 10.5 goals.
At nearly 35, Lampard himself admits he can no longer expect to play in every single game, and with much depending on Chelsea’s summer transfer activity – Benitez hinted last night that the club would spend up to €100 million in the upcoming window – as well as the identity of the next manager (it’s going to be The Special One, isn’t it?), it is a difficult call at this stage.
But given how well Lampard keeps himself, ironically given his ‘Fat Frank’ tag, and the fact that he is almost guaranteed to be on penalty duty, there could well be plenty of takers that he once again gets into double figures.