Martin Samuel writes in his Daily Mail column today about the ‘lack of class’ Chelsea are showing in their handling of the Frank Lampard situation. The midfielder, of course, will not be offered an extension to his contract and will therefore leave the club in the Summer when his current deal expires.
Samuel draws comparisons with the way Manchester United have treated Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, and projects that Liverpool will similarly wrap a warm blanket around Steven Gerrard as he approaches retirement age – all of which, he reasons, draws a very unfavourable comparison to Chelsea’s attitude towards Lampard.
Yes okay, this has gone far enough now. Football is now a business, and Chelsea are making a business decision with Lampard. We’re approaching a new era in the game, one which prevents deep-pocketed owners from maintaining ever-increasing wage bills – and that has to be better understood. Players on big contracts who have diminishing on-pitch value are now more vulnerable than ever before, and Lampard fits into that category.
Rewarding players retrospectively for the career they’ve had is a lovely idea, but Financial Fair Play makes it an unrealistic one. The thought of Lampard being given a new, three-year, £120,000/week contract is terribly romantic, but it wouldn’t actually be particularly sensible. If, on the one hand, the fans demand the brightest young talent in the world – the Juan Matas, the Eden Harzards – then this is the price that has to be paid. Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs are both still at Manchester United because of the lack of depth which exists in their respective positions, not because David Gill is particularly charitable.
The Summer will see Chelsea active in the transfer market again, and almost certainly strengthening the squad in Lampard’s position. His value – in relation to the football club – will have diminished ever further, so where’s the sense in continuing to pay him at the current level?
Either Chelsea are going to be whipped for ‘a lack of class’ or ‘irresponsible wage spending’, and you can’t have it both ways. Class and compassion are nice concepts, but they don’t actually translate into Premier League points.