Friday 14 March ~
Joey Barton would probably pick up most votes in a public contest to decide who is the most widely disliked English footballer of the moment, as much for his behaviour off the field as on it. But he achieved temporary redemption for saying something that is likely to become a mainstay of football quotes anthologies for decades to come. This was the suggestion that Frank Lampard's 2006 autobiography could be promoted as “Went to the World Cup. Played shit. Here's my book”. Lampard was greatly vexed by this comment, suggesting that it stemmed from envy on the part of a player who hadn't won anything. He is also reported to have silently moved away when Barton went to sit at the same canteen table during an England get together. Lampard is a talented, successful footballer but he's also immensely annoying, none more so than when complaining to the press about Chelsea's failure to sort out his new contract.
Lampard is currently paid £100,000 a week but he wants an increase to £130,000 to match Chelsea's highest earner, John Terry. He could leave for free when his current deal expires at the end of next season. It is said that he's being “courted” by Juventus and Barcelona, with interest from the latter said to be connected to the possibility that José Mourinho will take over as coach next season. Lampard's agent had previously fuelled speculation to this effect by being seen several times in the presence of journalists with a “teach yourself Spanish” book under his arm.
Lampard's wife is Spanish so it's not unreasonable to suppose that he would happy to move there and last summer he is said to have turned down a contract offer from Chelsea that was worth what he is now asking for. Many people would like to see Lampard move to La Liga simply because it would help to establish whether he is as good as he believes himself to be. He often attracts glowing reviews for his Chelsea performances but in the imbalanced Premier League these are often turkey shoots, as was the case with the 6-1 demolition of Derby on Wednesday.
To many, Lampard is a symbol of English football's current star system, in which unexceptional players have their reputations inflated by a compliant media which acts as an extension of the League's PR machine rather than reporting objectively. Taken out of such a supportive environment he might flounder. He might even find himself back here in time to help with his friend David Cameron's election campaign. In the meantime, here's hoping Barcelona get their man and give us a break from him for at least a year.