Lampard exit to leave Chelsea midfield bare
CHELSEA will have a massive void to fill in midfield next season after the club's all-time record goal-scorer Frank Lampard announced on Monday that he was ending his 13-year spell at Stamford Bridge.
The England World Cup player, who joined the Premier League club from London rivals West Ham United in 2001 for a fee of £11 million, scored 211 goals in all competitions for Chelsea.
"Whatever the next challenge is for me, I will always be amongst you and have Chelsea in my heart," Lampard told the club's fans in a statement.
Lampard, who turns 36 on June 20 and will be England's vice-captain at the World Cup in Brazil, is out of contract and has been linked with a move to new Major League Soccer franchise New York City.
The New York club announced on Monday that Spain World Cup forward David Villa had signed a three-year deal.
Lampard won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League with Chelsea.
"When I arrived at this fantastic club 13 years ago, I would never have believed that I would be fortunate enough to play so many games and enjoy sharing in so much success," he said.
"This club has become part of my life and I have so many people to thank for the opportunity. Firstly (former chairman) Ken Bates, who put his neck on the line to sign me as a young player; without him I would not have even begun this experience.
"Roman Abramovich, the man who saved our club and took us all to new levels. His desire to push the club to the top of the football world has rubbed off on everyone," he added.
Lampard was brought to Chelsea by manager Claudio Ranieri and the player struggled to prove his worth in his first season at Stamford Bridge.
The Londoner started to blossom in his second campaign and it was his two goals at Bolton Wanderers, in Jose Mourinho's maiden season in charge in 2004-05, that sealed the club's first top-flight title in 50 years.
Lampard, by then, had turned into the modern-day version of England 1966 World Cup winner Bobby Charlton, with a penchant for spectacular long-range goals.
Chelsea won the Premier League title again in 2006 and it was his pass to Didier Drogba that set up the only goal in the 2007 FA Cup final victory over Manchester United at Wembley.
Lampard, vice-captain to skipper John Terry, flourished under Mourinho but the midfielder's insatiable thirst for goals continued when the Portuguese left in September 2007.
The England international, who has won 103 caps for his country, claimed the domestic league and cup double with Chelsea under Italian Carlo Ancelotti in 2010.
However, the crowning glory of his days in the royal blue No. 8 shirt came in Munich in May 2012.
With Terry missing because of suspension, Lampard hoisted the Champions League trophy aloft after Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in a penalty shootout in the German team's own Allianz Arena stadium.