Monday, July 7, 2008

Frank Lampard to Inter Milan?

Born and bred in London on opposite sides of England's capital, Frank Lampard could very well be leaving home to rejoin former manager José Mourinho in Milan.

According to BBC Sport, Inter Milan have begun negotiations with Chelsea to bring the high-profile 30-year-old midfielder to Serie A. It is understood that Chelsea have received a fax from the Italian giant inquiring about Lampard, who has only one year left on his current contract at Stamford Bridge and so far has been hesitant to commit to a new deal.

With the arrival of Deco last week and the holdover presence of the rather large figure that is Michael Ballack, not to mention the fact that Zenit St. Petersburg and Russian national team star Andrei Arshavin is now being linked to Chelsea as well, it seems safe to assume that Lampard doesn't really figure into new manager Luiz Felipe Scolari's future plans. If Arshavin was to be signed, Chelsea would have three terrific attacking midfielders in a formation that, going by Scolari's past history, really only has room for one at a time. With Lampard and Arshavin, Chelsea would have four players for that one position, and simple mathematics tells me that that won't work out.

Inter's first offer is reported to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $13 million dollars, $3 million less than what Chelsea just paid for Deco. In an earlier post I talked about how $16 million for Deco is a steal, and with that in mind, $13 million for Lampard would be flat-out highway robbery. I understand that his value decreases the closer his current contract gets to expiring, but there is no way that a proven 20-goal-per-season player is only worth $13 million.

Chelsea and Luiz Felipe Scolari can continue to say all the right things in public about how they'd like Lampard to stay in West London, and they really have no choice but to say that or else his value will be slashed even more, but the fact of the matter is this is Lampard's decision to make and his alone.

It's no secret that he is one of Mourinho's favorite players and it's no secret how much Lampard loves playing for Mourinho, and to be honest, I think this is the perfect time for Lampard to move on. He's won two Premier League titles an FA Cup, and two Carling Cups, and been named to the PFA Team of the Year twice, all with Chelsea. The only major trophy he didn't win was the Champions League, and that was through no fault of his own with the way he carried the Blues in the later stages of that competition last year before they lost to Manchester United in PK's in Moscow. He can't accomplish any more with the club, and I think his tenure there has run its natural course.

Chelsea and Inter will surely go back and forth discussing a transfer fee for Lampard, because there's just no way Chelsea would only sell for $13 million. Remember, just one or two seasons ago, this is a guy who was valued anywhere between $35-$40 million, so a sum of not even half of that seems very outlandish. Lampard is in the prime of his career and would benefit from the slower pace of Serie A.

If I had to put a percentage on Lampard leaving for Inter Milan at this point, I'd say it's at least 50/50, if not 55/45 or even 60/40 towards him going. There's no room for him at Chelsea and Mourinho is a huge Lampard fan as I already mentioned.

Update (07/08-6:57 PM): Inter’s first official bid — nearly $16 million dollars — will be rejected by Chelsea, the West London club announced. Chelsea have also stated that they “will not enter into any discussions” regarding a possible transfer for Lampard, but come on, we’ve heard that plenty of times before and then that club eventually sells the player anyway.

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