Stamford Bridge will be missing a very familiar presence next season, as English midfielder Frank Lampard announced Monday that he is leaving Chelsea after 13 seasons.
Lampard, who won the UEFA Champions League crown, three Premier League titles and four FA Cups with the club while becoming its all-time leading goalscorer, was out of contract after concluding his one-year extension that he signed last summer amid rumors he'd be joining the LA Galaxy. He remained with the Blues after Jose Mourinho was brought back to coach the team, but was used less frequently than in past seasons. He scored six goals in all competitions, his lowest output in more than 10 years.
In a statement, Lampard wrote:
“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. This club has become part of my life and I have so many people to thank for the opportunity. Firstly, Ken Bates, who put his neck on the line to sign me as a young player and 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. All the managers and coaches who have helped me develop my game during the time I have been here. I have learnt from every one of them.
“All the brilliant teammates who I have been lucky enough to train and play alongside for so long. Not just their football qualities but also the friendships I have gained along the way. I’d also like to give a special mention to all the staff and people behind the scenes at the club who do not receive the glory but without them the club would simply not function.
“The club will move forward, and as a Chelsea man I have no doubt that with the quality of the players that are there, they will continue with the success that we have all enjoyed over the past seasons. Finally and most importantly, I would like to thank the Chelsea fans. I believe they are the greatest fans in world football. You have supported me from the moment I arrived. Not only on the pitch, but in difficult moments in my personal life off the pitch. I will never forget.
“I feel honored to have shared so many special times with you. Bolton, Amsterdam, Munich, the list goes on and on. I, and we as a team, could not have achieved those moments without your support. Whatever the next challenge is for me I will always be amongst you and have Chelsea in my home and in my heart. Hopefully I will get to see you all soon to say goodbye properly. In the meantime thank you for the memories and keep making history.”
Lampard turns 36 next month, and he again finds himself heavily linked to MLS, with reports suggesting that New York City FC is looking to add him to its first roster. The club landed Spain international forward David Villa as its first player signing on Monday and could make an even bigger splash by adding a player like Lampard, who while aging is still very much a high-caliber central midfielder. NYCFC offered a "no comment" on the reports when discussing Villa's signing on Monday.
Lampard will represent England at the World Cup this summer, and he is currently in Miami, where the Three Lions are continuing their preparation for a tough Group D that includes Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica.
Should Lampard join MLS, the league would boast the all-time leading scorers in Arsenal (Thierry Henry) and Chelsea history.