Sam Wallace: Chelsea must allow Frank Lampard to make painless departure

Talking Football: The club can't keep adding to their wage bill if they're to comply with Uefa rules

There is a video clip doing the rounds on the web of a fans' forum at West Ham in 1996 in which Harry Redknapp is confronted by an outspoken, possibly inebriated, supporter who criticises him for favouring Frank Lampard, then just 17, while allowing two other youth-team prospects – Scott Canham and Matt Holland – to leave.

Lampard, puppyish and fresh of face, looks on mortified while his uncle goes on the attack. "I'll tell you with no shadow of doubt, there will be no comparison [between those two players] and what Frank Lampard achieves," Redknapp says. "He's got everything needed to become a top-class midfield player. His attitude is first class, he's got strength, he can play, he can pass it and he can score goals."

Sixteen years on, Redknapp's judgement is uncannily prescient. Lampard did go right to the top, although not with West Ham. On Holland - "I think he may bounce back," Redknapp says in 1996, "he's a decent player" - he was right too. Canham, who turned down a two-year deal at West Ham, slipped down the leagues and finished at Thurrock in 2007. As for the fan in the audience, perhaps he is still casting a critical eye over West Ham reserve games.

The start of Lampard's career was blighted by the strange manner in which the West Ham support took against him, a misjudgement not just confined to the man at the fans' forum. It is a pity that the end of his time at Chelsea is threatening to get nasty too. Not with the supporters, but with the club itself.

Lampard, with 193 goals for the club and a starring role in the most successful period of Chelsea's history, is in his last season. That much is certain, in spite of reports yesterday about the possibility of him staying. The trouble is that his impending departure is threatening to turn into a public relations battle between player and club over where the fault lies.

Chelsea have decided not to give him a new contract and have explained in private to Lampard their reasons for doing so. Lampard is understood to have agreed a deal in principle with Los Angeles Galaxy. In many ways it should be that simple. But this is Chelsea, where nothing is.

The decision not to renew Lampard's contract is one that inevitably divides opinion. He will be 35 in June and his goals against Everton last week, as well as his penalty against Southampton on Saturday, have renewed the fervour that he has at least another good year in him. That may well be the case; but there is also a strong argument for saying that this summer, with the natural break in his contract, is as good a time as any for the club to go in a new direction.

Chelsea have to hand the baton on to a new generation at some point, and they have invested heavily in those players. Lampard has always been among their top earners, rightly so, but there is a good argument for not extending his contract any further. The notion that he has offered to play for less is, one is reliably informed, not the case. The club cannot keep adding to their wage bill if they are seriously to comply with Uefa financial fair play.

Every goal Lampard scores, from now to the end of the season, in pursuit of Bobby Tambling's club record of 202 will inevitably provoke more disbelief from certain quarters that he is being allowed to leave. The supporters are already disenchanted with the club's current choice of Rafa Benitez as manager and Lampard's future has further pricked that sense they have of Roman Abramovich's indifference to their opinions.

It is a personal view that the summer is a good time for Lampard to go. There is no guarantee the club will find another 20-goals-a-season midfielder but that was always likely to be the case. Great players are very rarely replaced like-for-like. Manchester United never found a new Roy Keane; instead Cristiano Ronaldo came to the fore. A different kind of player, in a different position, but with the same galvanising effect. At 35, Lampard will still be young enough to gain one more lucrative contract elsewhere.

Change is hard. Especially at a club where Lampard has been a constant through the good times and the bad of the Abramovich era. Explaining change has not been a strength at Chelsea. The club could do a lot worse than clear up the reasons, as dispassionately as possible, why they are not renewing Lampard's contract. Not everyone will agree but it might take the sting out of the situation.

Lampard's departure should not end with bitterness on both sides. His name will be cherished by the fans for years to come. He might well manage the side. He may even get a statue on the forecourt one day, like Peter Osgood. It would be a dreadful shame if when he bids farewell to Stamford Bridge in the last home game of the season on 19 May there is tension in the air.

Letting go of a club great is never simple. The decision is never easy but it has to happen and the nature of the personalities involved means that it can get unpleasant on both sides. Bob Paisley had to ask Bill Shankly to stop turning up at Liverpool training sessions. The statues to Bobby Moore on Green Street and Wembley were only erected after he was dead. For many years the captain on England's greatest day earned his trade picking up scraps of media work.

Thankfully for Lampard's generation, the wages have been so great that there are no fears about paying the mortgage. All that is at risk of being bruised are the egos and both sides will surely come to regret it if this does not turn out to be an amicable farewell.

Why Everton got raw deal in TV game

Bill Kenwright's complaint that Everton were assigned too few live games last season - and lost out financially as a result -prompted me to check the Premier League payments from last year. He has a point. Everton were given the minimum live payment of 10 facility fees, although they could have featured even fewer times than that. Even Blackburn were on television more often than them.

In defence of the broadcasters, it does not necessarily follow that teams higher up the league make more interesting television than those who are struggling, which would account for why Queen's Park Rangers were on live 14 times. Liverpool, with their tempestuous season, were live on TV 23 times. They finished one place below Everton in eighth and so earned around £700,000 less than their neighbours in merit payments. Liverpool more than made up for that with £6.2m extra from live television fees. That's showbusiness, as they say.

Childhood is key to enigma of Balotelli

The misjudgements and belligerence of Mario Balotelli show no sign of abating but for every rush to present him as the poster boy of modern football's worst excesses, I always refer back to his difficult childhood.

The sad thing is that he shows all the signs of being a damaged, vulnerable individual and that would be the case whether he was a multi-millionaire footballer or not.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?