Is It Curtains for Frank Lampard, or Can Jose Mourinho Prolong His Career?
"Don't know when this chance might come again, good times got a way of comin' to an end."
With a back catalog including such hits as "Born to Run" and "Dancing in the Dark" to name just two, it's not the most inventive or insightful chorus you will hear from Bruce Springsteen.
Chelsea fans, however, would have found more meaning last season in the relatively unknown "Let's Be Friends" from the 2002 album The Rising than any other of The Boss' songs.
This personal indulgence in Springsteen's lyrical genius has a point, as for long parts of 2012-13 it seemed Frank Lampard's time was up at Stamford Bridge, with the club appearing adamant he would not receive a new contract at the end of the campaign (via the Guardian).
Good times do indeed have a way of comin' to an end, but for Lampard, a return of 17 goals that saw him surpass Bobby Tambling as the club's all-time goalscorer has prolonged the party somewhat, eventually earning him a reprieve. He signed on for one more year at Stamford Bridge in May.
It was some turnaround, and as Blues fans rejoiced, Lampard himself struggled to hide his delight at being given one more shot at lifting even more silverware at the club he has served for well over a decade.
"Everybody knows I always maintained the dream was to stay at Chelsea," he told ChelseaFC.com. "I love this club, the staff, the players and especially the supporters, who have treated me fantastically since the day I arrived.
"The thought of helping the club to more success in the forthcoming years is all I ever wanted. I couldn't be happier."
How he is feeling now, though, is anyone's guess. For a player once lauded for his fitness and ability to avoid the treatment table, a troublesome Achilles injury during preseason is slowly becoming an alarming sign for Lampard.
He said so himself—this one-year contract isn't a temporary thing, he's looking beyond 2013-14, wanting to bring Chelsea "more success in the forthcoming years."
Will his body allow him to, though?
When Jose Mourinho first arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2004, he was tasked with making Lampard the world's best midfielder. He duly succeeded. Now he has to prolong his career.
In more recent seasons it's been the odd thigh strain here and there that has kept the Englishman away from action, but other niggles are now beginning to raise questions as to his physical ability.
The new season is just a fortnight away, and Lampard is yet to get any serious game time under his belt as he struggles with injury. That's got to be a concern for Mourinho. It will be a concern for Lampard, also.
How many appearances will Frank Lampard make for Chelsea this season?
At 35, suggesting his body is struggling or will struggle to hold up to the Premier League's physical demands is an easy assumption to make, but now more than ever, the questions about Lampard's durability are being asked.
Mourinho remains calm over the situation, saying in the Daily Mail this week that he expects Lampard to return to action soon while the club is on tour in the U.S. for the Guinness International Champions Cup.
"Hopefully he plays [on the tour], I won't say the second match but maybe the third or fourth," he commented.
Perhaps Mourinho knows something we don't. After all, he is the man who helped prolong the career of Javier Zanetti, who at almost 40 years old is still going strong at Inter Milan.
Whatever magic the Portuguese worked with Inter's Argentinean, Lampard knows he's going to need a similar intervention from Mourinho if the curtain isn't going to fall on his Chelsea career this season.
Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes
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