The majority of the transfer gossip surrounding Chelsea is about players headed to Stamford Bridge, but letting Frank Lampard leave may end up being the top storyline for the Blues in January.
The 34-year-old midfielder is trying negotiating a new contract, but little progress appears to have been made. He said the following, via The Daily Mirror’s Martin Lipton:
Talks about one-year extension, two-year extension don't exist—because at the minute nothing has been said and as far as I know nothing is planned. The ball is in Chelsea's court.
Age has started to take its toll on the 34-year-old, and this is likely leading to Chelsea’s hesitation in talks over Lampard’s future. As Lipton notes, the English international has missed significant time due to a calf injury this season.
He has started four Premier League matches while appearing in four more as a substitute. He has scored three times in these appearances.
Lampard has forged his reputation through incredibly consistent offensive production. He has scored 10 league goals in each of the last nine seasons.
However, he has reformed his role in order to compensate for his declining athleticism. Before his injury, he was contributing to Chelsea as a holding midfielder.
His vision and discipline made for a smooth transition, and the Blues will need his services in the middle of the pitch this season.
Oriol Romeu is likely out for the year after injuring his knee, and John Obi Mikel will be leaving the team for several weeks in January to take part in the Africa Cup of Nations. If Lampard is sold during the upcoming transfer window, Ramires would be the only defensive midfielder left on the squad.
While the Blues could search for a new player at this position, the team would still be worryingly thin in the heart of its lineup.
As current manager Rafa Benitez said recently via Sky Sports, “You need to know the players and find the balance. If you have too many players with quality—these players we were talking about, all dynamic but cannot regain the ball—you do not have the balance.”
Lampard is a player who can help restore balance to the Chelsea lineup by playing behind talented playmakers such as Juan Mata and Eden Hazard.
Chelsea is not in a financial position where it needs to concern itself with letting Lampard leave for free in the summer, and it does not need the few million pounds it would receive by letting him leave in January.
Given the Blues’ current lack of depth in the midfield, Lampard’s contribution on the pitch will be significantly more valuable than the fee Chelsea would receive from allowing him to sign for another team this winter.