The topic of loyalty in football is more debated than ever before, with players moving clubs at the drop of a hat, kissing the badge one week and demanding more money the next, and publicly slating their manager in a bid to get a move to their desired club.
Of all the players who are currently taking up column inches, Frank Lampard has to be the worst of the lot. Back in 2005, Lampard claimed that he would be knocking on Roman Abramovich’s door any day to ask for a contract extension. Three years went by, with Lampard professing his desire to stay at every given opportunity, kissing the badge as the cameras rolled, but they were no closer to agreeing terms.
“Inter? Let’s wait and see,” he said at the end of June. “For the moment I am here on holiday with my family, my future at Chelsea? I don’t know anything yet.”
In true drama queen fashion, Chelsea announced earlier today that a “World exclusive” to be revealed to the fans and it has now been confirmed that Lampard has agreed a new deal, which will be in the region of £150,000 a week. Chelsea fans around the country will rejoice, their beloved Lampard is staying, but those that have a bit of sense about them should be worried.
Whilst John Terry is a little too insistent that all is well at Chelsea and they’ll win the league this season, the fact that one of the players at the heart of the team, someone who is supposed to be one of the loyal and committed, had such a hard time being convinced to stay, should certainly be a concern.
It was suggested that Lampard was looking for a 5-year-deal, after rejecting a 4-year-deal worth £140,000 a week. Offering a 5-year-deal to a 30-year-old is absolutely ridiculous and a sign that Peter Kenyon is really losing his grip.
At United, players over 30 will only be offered a 1 year extension, which Kenyon enforced when he was with the club. In 2005, David Gill broke this tradition, when agreeing a 2-year-deal with Ryan Giggs. This has been extended several times since, with his current deal expiring at the end of this coming season.
It makes good business sense to monitor players in their 30’s more carefully, with the best days of their career now over. Players who have been loyal to the club should be treated well, and this is shown in the example of Giggs getting a longer extension (even at the cost of a decrease in wage). But this offer to Lampard will see him earning something between £140,000-£150,000 a week until he is 35-years-old. When you look back at players in the top flight playing at a good level when they were that age, you could probably count them on one hand. It is important to note that Lampard just won’t be playing top flight football, for football for a club whose aspirations are winning the league and European Cup.
Regardless, whilst Lampard was still stalling, Chelsea were getting contract extensions wrapped up left, right and centre. This assured the fans that everything was ticking over as usual and certainly improving team spirit. Chelsea insisting they weren’t going to budge on their already obscene offer to Lamps, the likes of Michael Essien and Petr Cech signed up.
Some of the better informed Chelsea fans at the time suggested this was simply a ploy to keep everyone happy, before offering up a ridiculous sum of money to keep Lampard. The other key players signing extensions would start asking for big money deals, holding the club to ransom like Lampard was, if they believed it was going to get them more money.
That prediction has seemingly come true, with Lampard being offered a new 5-year-deal with the club today. So is this how our title rivals are going to conduct business, by allowing players to hold them to ransom and then caving in to their demands? It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if the likes of Joe Cole, John Terry and Michael Ballack etc. behaviour in exactly the same way when their contract is up for renewal. Clearly, being loyal to the club isn’t rewarded at Chelsea, but mercenary behaviour is.
The ramifications stretch further than players currently at the club, but new signings as well. If Chelsea approach one of the hottest young talents in the World over the next few years, and this kid sees some 35-year-old has-been raking in £150k a week, how much is he going to be asking for? Chelsea don’t have a wage structure anymore. It is a free-for-all, where important players can demand what they like, and if these demands aren’t meant, they’ll be off, just like Frank Lampard would have been.
The effects of all this will have on team morale is also likely to be negative. The players who signed their somewhat pitiful extensions, in contrast to Lampard, will be wondering what they were thinking about. Why didn’t they push Chelsea’s back up against the wall too, demanding more money? When there isn’t a sense of equality in the dressing room, problems will start. Lampard has been given extra-special treatment here and the other players, if they have any sense, won’t respond kindly to that.
Lampard is held up as a Chelsea hero, a proper blue, who puts his heart and soul in to playing for the club. However, if we compare their hero to ours, like Ryan Giggs who took a wage-cut to get his lengthier contract post-30, or Paul Scholes without his agent, then clearly we are in a more favourable position. If we have Neville, Scholes and Giggs as role models to our players, then what good stead that puts us in when comparing that to Chelsea’s players, who have the likes of Frank Lampard.
“If players fancy a move and a bit of money then good luck to them but if they’re at such a place like this I don’t think they realise how lucky they are to be playing here,” said Scholes last month. “There are obviously big clubs in the world but while certain people think it might be a progression if they move somewhere else, I don’t think it is. I am lucky in that I’ve had everything I need. I’m at Manchester United and from Manchester. What more do I need?”
In regards to the positive effects this will have for United, quite simply, our opposition are weakened because of this deal. The dressing room won’t be happy and this will continue as more Chelsea players choose to behave in the way Lampard has.
Whilst some are equally unimpressed, Chelsea fans on the whole need to wise up, because even Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t need to be offered £150,000 a week to stay at United over leaving for Real Madrid, and his loyalty towards United shouldn’t be comparable to Lampard’s feelings for Chelsea, if all his ramblings in the press over recent years are to be believed.
Lampard has dragged on this saga for three years now, repeatedly telling the club that he loves them and wants to stay, yet requiring obscene amounts of money to keep him there. Amazingly though, for the most part, he is given the support of the Chelsea faithful. How can they be so blinded to his disgraceful behaviour?
I give it a few hours before the press conference with Lampard comes filtering through, and I expect to hear how much he loves the club, what an honour it is to play at Stamford Bridge, how important the fans are, and how he never had any intention of leaving the club.
Thank fuck we don’t have the likes of Kenyon organising our club anymore and thank fuck we don’t have players with Lampard’s mentality as our heroes and role models!