Benitez confirms Lampard and Cole will leave Chelsea in the summer
SOCCER:Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole are set to sever their long and glittering association with Chelsea at the end of the season after Rafael Benitez marked his first full day in interim charge of the club by confirming the break-up of the European Cup- winning team will continue in the summer.
Benitez has been employed on a short-term contract and he stressed others in the Chelsea hierarchy deal with contract negotiations. But after spending time with the technical director, Michael Emenalo, in the build-up to his appointment and having dined with Roman Abramovich on Thursday evening he is under the impression neither Cole nor Lampard will be retained when their contracts expire.
The previous manager, Roberto Di Matteo, urged the board to do all they could to retain both senior players’ services only last week, though the reality that no progress has been made in negotiations always appeared telling.
Cole had been offered a one-year deal in preliminary talks but is seeking longer terms having been targeted by Paris Saint-Germain while Lampard, who joined in 2001 and is the club’s third-highest goalscorer, has not been offered a deal. He has attracted interest from China’s Guizhou Renhe and from teams in the MLS, and both players can negotiate with foreign clubs in the new year.
Asked if he thought the players would leave in the summer, Benitez said: “I think so. I don’t have all the information and it’s not fair to tell me I’m only here for seven months and then expect me to have an influence at the club over the next two or three years, but I think that’s the case at the moment.”
They would follow Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Jose Bosingwa away from Stamford Bridge, that trio having left last summer, with Florent Malouda currently seeing out his contract in the reserves as the club continue to dismantle the team that defeated Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in May.
Benitez will continue to consider both for selection, though Lampard is still suffering from a calf injury. The manager has spoken to all his playing squad since taking up the reins on Thursday – he oversaw his first full training session yesterday in preparation for tomorrow’s visit of Manchester City – and been reassured by those older members of the squad that there are no lingering issues from the combustible rivalry they endured with his Liverpool side from 2004-10. “I had a conversation with John Terry today and it was quite positive,” said the Spaniard. “He knows: he’s a winner, I’m a winner. It’s simple.”