“I feel I have two or three years in me – at least – at the top level. The ball is in Chelsea’s court. At the minute nothing has been said. Nothing has been planned. Talks about ‘a one-year extension’ or ‘two-year extension’ don’t exist. Maybe things don’t last forever. Although I want it to last forever you have to be big enough to know what it is.’’
What it is? It’s the end of an era for one of the clubs longest serving and successful players which is a theme we may have to get used to in the coming months.
For it appears this season more than any that some of our most illustrious veterans are coming toward the end of their tenures with top-flight football. Lampard’s self-assessment that he has ‘two or three years’ at the top level may be intrinsically romantic; this season has been blighted by injuries and the talk at the moment is of a move to USA or China; the retirement homes of world football. Meanwhile fellow job-seeker Ashley Cole is besieged of options in England and the continent if the red-tops are to be believed.
He can take some warped solace in the fact he is not alone in this potential player end-game. Manchester United have yet to open discussions with Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. While any current assessment of their abilities has to be prefaced with an overwhelming respect for their previous successes it appears the sands of time are certainly starting to affect their games.
Rio Ferdinand also sees his contract dwindling toward expiry. With talks on hold till the New Year he could also see himself politely asked to step aside for the likes of Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling to fully spread their wings as the future of Manchester United’s defence.
Liverpool stalwart Jamie Carragher is another who has not yet been offered the ‘AC Milan’ style one-year roller. Not a part of Brendan Rodgers plans for the future his desire to be a one-club man may see his career end come 2013.
Tottenham Hotspur goalie Brad Friedel has been the pedestalled retirement-pusher in the past. Now at 41 he faces his biggest challenge in the form of the monumentally talented, if occasionally erratic, French number one. The American taken on as one of our own since 1997 is also staring into the end of his current line of employment. William Gallas may also be sent on his way as part of Andre Villas Boas’s revolution.
Even the likes of Phil Neville, Everton club captain at 35-years-old, may be coming toward the end of his career. A contract expiring in the summer and a serious knee operation recently makes his situation unenviable; despite his own assertions about his rapid recovery abilities his brother Gary soon found out there comes a time when the body can no longer repair the damage so easily.
The inevitable careers in coaching or punditry may come up; with Friedel, Neville and Carragher already dabbling in these fields. While the ambassadorial roles for the likes of Giggs and Scholes may be on offer. Others may move down the ladder or abroad for one final footballing hurrah while the rest might just put their feet up and never kick a football again.
Either way as talented professional footballers, regardless of events outside the green rectangle, the next stage of every one of these careers will be monitored very closely by British eyes.
Do you think the time is up for some of these Premier League stalwarts?
image: © Ben Sutherland