"When you love something, you don’t threaten it. You don’t punish it. You fight for it. You take care of it. You put it first. This is my home. You are my family. And I promise you…I’m not going anywhere.”
Now, this may be just a quote from what is my favorite sitcom ever. But there is a real purpose and a lesson behind Leslie Knope’s closing statement in the Pawnee debates. Because when you love something, you don’t threaten it, and you don’t punish it because things aren’t quite working out for you.
This is why I have no sympathy for Frank Lampard. 578 appearances, 193 goals, four FA cups, three Premier League titles, two League Cups and one unforgettable, unbelievable Champions League trophy. He is undoubtedly a true legend at the west London club.
But interspersed in there, hidden away and brushed under the carpet are two large errors that, in my opinion, somewhat undermine his magnificent efforts and status at the club.
In the summer of 2008, 30-year-old Frank Lampard was coming off the back of a season fraught with heartbreak. Runners up in the League Cup, the Premier League and the Champions League, where they were one John Terry slip away from being crowned the champions of Europe in Roman Abramovich’s homeland. Despite another 20-goal haul including one in the Champions League final, Lampard had his worst year in terms of appearances, only managing 40.
So naturally, he was handed a bumper five-year contract, which also made him the highest paid player in the league at the time. Wait, what? As extraordinary as it sounds, the midfielder was rewarded with a massive new contract. As always seems to be the way with football.
The method to secure it was shady to say the least. Lampard essentially held the club hostage, threatening them. Before the contract was signed, a summer of speculation surrounded west London, as rumours intensified that Inter Milan and their new coach Jose Mourinho wanted Lampard to join their revolution.
Make no mistake; these rumours don’t just make their way into newspapers with a well-placed source or two. This was very much the work of an agent working on Lampard’s behalf, designed to twist Abramovich’s arm that little bit further in negotiations. Just a little reminder that if you don’t give him what he wants, Lampard is off. And it very obviously paid off, handsomely in fact.
This may all be fair in the world of contract negotiations, but it just doesn’t sit right with me. But the worst, in my opinion, was still to come.
Andre Villas-Boas had come in with a burgeoning reputation. The extremely young manager who had just won a Portuguese treble with Porto took over at Chelsea, tasked with leading a revolution at the club.
The philosophy was going to change, the style of play and the reliance on a few old hands was going to be redressed. This idea may have put a few noses out of joint around the place, but it was all for the improvement of Chelsea Football Club.
But that was all very quickly undermined when it became clear that a few players in particular were no longer required to be the figureheads that they had been previously.
Speaking publically, Villas-Boas admitted that “some players are not with me” after a dressing room bust up after a defeat to Everton was leaked to the press. Lampard later admitted that that his relationship with Villas-Boas was “not ideal”, and made it clear he wasn't happy at not being selected throughout AVB's time in charge.
Now, I’m not saying Lampard never gave his all when picked, far from it. He always has been and always will be an exceptional professional. I would argue until I’m blue in the face that he is the ultimate example of a player who has worked tirelessly to make the most of his talents.
Not as naturally gifted as a Steven Gerrard or Joe Cole, his achievements outweigh theirs because he has absolutely worked his socks off, and worked to be the very best he can be. But, as a leader in that dressing room, he could have done more to unite that squad at that time, and he certainly could have backed the manager and the changes that he was trying to implement. But, for somewhat selfish reasons, he chose another path, and let himself down in my opinion.
In the grand scheme of things, Lampard will always be a legend at Stamford Bridge, perhaps the greatest player to play for the club. That should never be in doubt. But the caveats to the praises he gets should also be spoken of at the same time.
To reverse a popular saying, alongside Frank Lampard’s silver lining, there will always still hang a cloud.
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