Frank Lampard's Chelsea contract expires at the end of the season, and there is doubt as to whether he will be offered a new deal.
Lampard has not been a regular starter at Chelsea this season, but when he has played, the goals have continued to flow.
So does Lampard deserve to start for Chelsea?
I don't think so and, long term, I think the club would be better off building for a future without him. Here's why...
Under Jose Mourinho and for many years afterwards, Chelsea employed a 4-3-3 formation. With a holding midfielder in place, alongside a hard-working figure like Michael Essien, Lampard was given license to make forward runs at will, allowing him to ghost into the box to find scoring positions.
However, the arrival of Eden Hazard, Victor Moses and Oscar, to complement the talents of Juan Mata, has seen Chelsea switch to a 4-2-3-1, that needs the two central midfielders to keep their discipline and sit relatively deep.
England fans will remember how Lampard, along with Steven Gerrard, both found themselves unable to curb their attacking instincts for the greater good of the team when their country needed one of them to swallow their ego and play deeper.
As Lamaprd has gotten older, he has become more adept and willing to play in a deeper role. But for a player that still possesses such goal-scoring ability, it will always be difficult for him to resist the temptation to make those lung-busting runs, especially as he hones in on Chelsea’s all-time goal-scoring record currently held by Bobby Tambling.
Lampard can definitely do a job in a deeper midfield role, but there are clearly players out there who are better suited to the task. David Luiz has always looked like he would be better used in midfield and has been employed there by Rafa Benitez, who also has Ramires and Mikel available in this position.
Frank Lampard is currently 34 years old. He has always been a supremely fit and dedicated player, so it’s conceivable that he could continue to play in the Premier League for a few seasons yet.
It would only be natural, though, to expect Lampard’s abilities to decline over the next few years. Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs are still playing for Manchester United, but surely no one would argue that they are as effective as they were five years ago, let alone 10.
Whether it’s Rafa Benitez or another manager that’s in charge of things at Chelsea next season, do they want to build a team around a player on the decline or one that’s actually going to get better?
There is a big difference between Lampard continuing to play for a team like QPR or in the MLS and a side like Chelsea that are expected to challenge for trophies. One would expect that in the near future, Lampard will no longer be a truly top class player (there’s an argument that he’s not now).
Yet, due to his status as a Chelsea legend, questions will always be raised if he’s not in the team whilst he’s still at the club.
Lampard is currently on a £150,000-a-week contract. That might have been a reasonable investment for Chelsea back in the days when he could be guaranteed to score 20 goals a season and was the heartbeat of the midfield. But the evidence of this season suggests that Lampard's possible future at Chelsea is as a squad player at best.
Malcolm Folley of The Daily Mail claims that talks regarding a new contract have begun and that slashing Lampard's salary is not necessarily a condition of a new deal. It would be a ridiculous decision by Chelsea to offer Lampard the same wages.
You can pay one of the best players in the world £150,000-a-week (if you're owned by a Russian billionaire), but not an aging squad player.
With Chelsea looking to reduce their operating costs in light of UEFA's financial fair play regulations, surely the midfielder would need to be willing to take a major pay cut if he expects to extend his contract at Chelsea.
The problem for Lampard is that his salary could be halved and still be a questionable investment. Lampard is probably worth more to a club like LA Galaxy than he is to Chelsea right now, so it will be interesting to see what his main priority is: his salary demands or his professed love for his current club.