Frank Lampard has been told his contract will not be renewed after holding showdown talks with Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay.
Lampard believed he was about to be offered a new deal after talks were scheduled ahead of Chelsea’s game with QPR last Wednesday.
Instead the midfielder – now just nine goals behind Bobby Tambling in the list of all-time top scorers at Stamford Bridge – was told he can leave on a free transfer in the summer.
Chelsea fans are furious that Lampard, 34, will be allowed to leave after 12 years of loyal service and dedication to the club.
They sang ‘sign him up, sign him up’ yet again after he equalled Kerry Dixon’s total of 193 goals for Chelsea on Saturday.
Lampard scored the fifth goal from the penalty spot as the FA Cup holders destroyed Southampton at St Mary’s in the third round.
Although Lampard will not be allowed to leave until his contract expires at the end of the season, Manchester United and Arsenal are the two English clubs with genuine interest in signing him.
Sir Alex Ferguson has made it clear to Lampard that he would sign the midfielder immediately, but it appears to be a remote possibility.
Arsenal’s interest is not as strong, but they have asked to be kept informed of developments. Lampard, who has spent nearly 12 years at Chelsea, has made it clear he would find it impossible to move to the Emirates to play for another London club.
LA Galaxy also want him for the start of the MLS season in March, but will wait for Lampard if he decides to take up the American option.
Lampard’s agent Steve Kutner told The Mirror:
‘Chelsea executives told Frank in Japan during the Club World Cup then again reconfirmed with me after the Everton victory that in no circumstances will he be offered a new contract to stay at the club after the end of this season.
‘Nothing since has changed in any respect. Frank has had to accept that and just wants to carry on playing football for Chelsea so as to finish the season as successfully as possible for the club that he loves.’
At the moment Lampard is determined to see out the final five months of his contract at Chelsea and has still not given up hope of earning another new deal.
He is one of the highest earners at the club and Chelsea are planning for a future without Lampard in the squad. He scored in Chelsea’s 5-1 victory at Saints on Saturday and is just nine short of equalling Bobby Tambling as the club’s record goalscorer.
‘Chelsea fans supported me throughout my career here and particularly in recent weeks.
‘The way they were with me then is the way they have been recently and all the time I’ve been here. I just wanted to say thanks back.
‘That is our platform to say thanks back when we’re on the pitch, to first of all do the business because they pay the money to come and watch and when they have been so good to me, just to say it back to them. That is genuinely how I feel.
‘That’s what it is all about really so even if there is certain things going on your head, I think when I run out there and the fans support me the way I do, it can’t help but make you a bit emotional.
‘The goal meant a lot as I have so much respect for Kerry. He was a player, is still a personality around the place and a good friend of mine.
‘To get anywhere near him and with level I am I am very proud that. I haven’t spoken to him yet but I am sure I will do.
‘I have to say, Kerry has been one of the most supportive people at the club for me as an ex-player as well. I have nothing but thanks for him for helping along the way to get level with him.’