Despite their quick swoop for Demba Ba early on in this January transfer window and drawn out big money rumours of Atletico Madrid’s Falcao, it seems the most talked about subject in the gossip columns for Chelsea is Frank Lampard. Every corner of the media seems to be suggesting that the Chelsea hierarchy should be giving Frank an extension. The ‘Super Frankie Lampard’ chant has become the song of choice for fans. Such is the concern with Lampard’s contract it has even managed to overtake the ‘Champions of Europe’ chant, which is edging unpleasantly closer to expiration.
It isn’t the push to get Lampard an extension that confuses me. On the contrary I would quite like to see him stay an extra season or two. What confuses me is that this appears to be such a priority when Chelsea seem equally prepared to let Ashley Cole walk away at the end of the season. This is a course of action I simply cannot understand. Cole, for me anyway, is still the best left back in the world, so presumably the board’s plan is to sell the best left back in the world and embark on a goose chase to find the second best?
I haven’t seen any evidence of Cole’s game dropping. He’s still playing 90 minutes in most games, still making those attacking runs forward and remarkably never out of position. Age should not be an issue when his fitness is still so high – I’d wager he could beat most of the Chelsea squad over 100 metres. He’s much less dispensable than Lampard – Frank’s goal getting ability is fantastic but he is not playing full games week in week out like Cole. I think the push to keep Lampard is mainly an emotional one rather than a logical one. It could be the fans’ appreciation of his previous achievements or perhaps the urge to see him break the club’s top goal scorer record (he’s only nine away from breaking this). His empathetic badge beating goal celebrations have added fuel to the media discussion about his contract, but due to Ashley Cole’s understated professionalism – any debate of his situation seems to have slipped under the radar by comparison. In conclusion, to extend Frank’s contract would be nice - to extend Cole’s would be essential.
With the expected departure of both of these veterans, the inevitable following debate is who is going to replace them in the starting line ups. For Frank it’s easy – any one of the abundance of attacking midfielders Chelsea have. To replace Cole presents much more of a conundrum. There has been a little bit of talk that Chelsea might go after Everton’s Leighton Baines. Although, there doesn’t seem much sense in this given that not renewing Cole and Lampard’s contracts is allegedly a club policy about players over the age of 30, and Baines is 28 himself. Our second choice left back, Ryan Bertrand is not quite the finished product yet, but given an extra couple of seasons as Cole’s understudy he very well could be.
Letting Cole leave will prove to be Chelsea’s biggest transfer humiliation since spending £50 million on Torres. OK, Lampard might go and make a contribution of some kind, perhaps in Italy or sell a lot of shirts for LA Galaxy. But Cole will go to an absolute top club and continue to play 90 minutes for them and continue to be simply excellent. Bearing in mind Chelsea will consider themselves title contenders next year – allowing both players to go to Manchester United on a free, which is one of the top rumours, would be the ultimate foolish move.