China really does seem like the place to be these days, doesn't it? We've already had Nicolas Anelka head to Shanghai Shenhua this year, and Didier Drogba, who's out of contract in the summer, is expected to join his former strike partner there sooner than later. Now Frank Lampard's name has supposedly been thrown into the mix:
I want the best team in China and we are prepared to invest a lot of money to bring Ferdinand and Lampard to us. Many people here watch the Premier League and know how good the two players are.
-Guizhou Renhe chairman Wang Guolin. Source: Mail.
The Mail also says that Guizhou are offered to pay Lampard (and occasional England teammate Rio Ferdinand) £250,000 per week for the pleasure of their company. Now, I wouldn't take this rumour too seriously, because it's the Mail and even their quotes are... dubious these days.
But even if you're willing to dismiss the rumour outright, this is still the start of an interesting conversation. Should Chelsea be willing to let Lampard go in the summer? My feeling is that they shouldn't be looking to actively ship him out - his status as one of the best ever players to wear the shirt means he deserves better than that - but that's only half of the answer. If Lampard wants to move on*, how hard should the Blues fight to keep him at Stamford Bridge?
*And the money should be some incentive, I suppose.
The depressing answer is 'not very'. Lampard is still a very useful player, but not the force he used to be, which is something that tends to happen when you're 33 years old. He's no longer irreplaceable, and although his value tends to be understated by the folks who blame the 'old guard' for all of Chelsea's problems this year, it's clear that the club will have to survive without him sooner rather than later.
Furthermore, if Lampard does leave during the summer, we'd get a transfer fee for him as he'd still have a year left to run on the contract signed in August 2008. It's clear that the transfer market is broken these days as well. The likes of Paris Saint-Germain and Anzhi Makhachkala are paying more than they should, and with the crazy wages that are supposedly being offered for players to move to the Chinese Super League, you'd have to imagine that the transfer fees would be correspondingly high as well (we still do not have a value for the fee paid by Shanghai for Anelka, however).
In other words, if there is a significant push by Guizhou, and Lampard wants out - two very big ifs, it must be said - there's very little harm in accommodating them both. It's be a nice little retirement party for Lampard and a decent amount of cash for the Blues. Worse things could happen.