Speculation seems to suggest that Frank Lampard will be leaving Chelsea at the end of the season for pastures new. Despite being one of the club’s top performers in recent weeks and being their second highest scorer ever, Lamps will be seemingly surplus to requirements at the end of the season. When they are not groaning about ‘Tinkerman’ Benitez the Chelsea faithful are already mourning the loss of their talismanic midfielder and pleading for him to stay. However, like Didier Drogba before him, maybe Lampard will be departing just at the right time; when his performances are still being remembered for the right reasons. Like a good politician, top players should leave office with their public clambering for more!
Didier Drogba only last year set the precedent when it came to leaving a club at the right time. Almost single handedly winning the Champions League in his last performance, Drogba left with his stock and reputation high. Yes, he saw the Yen signs and did not choose the right club in Shanghai Shenhua, but his position in Chelsea folklore cannot be denied. Another French speaking talisman in London who left Arsenal just at the right time was Thierry Henry. For too long Arsenal depended on Henry for goals and trophies. By leaving for Barcelona he ensured that he will not only be remembered fondly by the Arsenal faithful but given a statue, coveted on loan and always invited back to train with the club when in London!
Further north in Liverpool many were surprised when Tim Cahill announced he was to leave Everton for New York Red Bulls in the MLS. A popular figure at the club given his regular goal ratio and the fact he was the highest post war Liverpool derby goal scorer for Everton, Cahill played 35 games for the Toffees in his final season. However David Unsworth Former Everton defender agreed with Cahill that the time was right for a new challenge stating: "I'm not overly surprised. I don't think his form over the last six months has been what it used to be. He's been a fantastic servant for Everton - a bargain buy. He scored some very important goals. I've nothing but admiration for him. I'm sure he goes with everyone's best wishes and I think it suits all parties. No-one likes to see a legend or a top player leave a club but there comes a time when we all have to move on."
For every player, or player’s agent that judges it just right, there are plenty more who stay for too long, pick up the pay check and get splinters from the bench (or comfy in the padded seats). Michael Owen has admitted that he should have left Manchester United a year earlier than his move to Stoke City. Persuaded by Sir Alex to stay on another year he only made four more appearances for United in his final year at the club. Staying at United for too long has certainly harmed Owen’s reputation and despite being England’s third top international scorer and playing for some of the top clubs in the world, he now endures constant ribbing on twitter for being a money grabbing bench dwelling sick note. Maybe he should have taken note of the likes of Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville who all left United in order to get more first team football. All are still classed as being great servants for the club. Can the same be said for Owen?
Another player who has stayed too long and tarnished his once high reputation is Morten Gamst Pederson at Blackburn. The man who was once smashing in volleys and scoring great goals in the Premier League, apparently leading to him being coveted by Arsenal and Manchester United, is now playing a bit part in the bottom half of the championship. No one can question Pederson’s loyalty to Blackburn but he almost certainly missed out on a big money move. Certain players have shown that if indeed you move on or retire early from a club too early you could always come back! Robbie Fowler, a massive favourite at Liverpool, enjoyed a cameo comeback towards the end of his career in English football. Sol Campbell did similar with Arsenal, as did Thierry Henry. In the lower leagues Robbie Blake was a revelation in his second spell with Burnley, helping them to the promised land of the Premier League. Who says you should never go back?
However, no player has had a more successful comeback than midfield maestro Paul Scholes; who has surprised the football world three times in recent years. Firstly by retiring, secondly by making an unexpected come back from the bench versus Man City last season and then thirdly by singing another contract with United such is his importance to United. The lack of heir apparent to his midfield crown no doubt influenced his and the club’s decision to bring him back but it seemed obvious that Scholes had retired too early. He still oozes class and has carried on his mantle of one of the best passers of his generation. When both Scholes and Giggs finally decide to depart United for good, they will certainly do so with the Old Trafford faithful being grateful for their service, clambering for more, ruing a lack of replacement and also with their reputation intact.