Lampard seeking fresh challenge

Streatham Guardian: Frank Lampard has played his last game for Chelsea Frank Lampard has played his last game for Chelsea

Frank Lampard has confirmed he will seek a new challenge after returning from the World Cup in Brazil as he brings an end to his 13-year association with Chelsea.

The 35-year-old issued a statement on Monday evening in which he revealed he has played his last game for the Blues.

Lampard has already been linked with a move to New York City FC but his England team-mates are convinced he still has a future at the highest level.

Fellow England midfielder James Milner said: "He's not finished yet. He's still got that quality and still has the goals, so I am sure he'll have plenty of offers and he will choose what is right.

"Players have ups and downs in their career, but every season he delivers and the example is set for the younger players coming in.

"Since I've been in the England squad he's been a top player, a top pro and that's exactly what we need going into a major tournament."

Lampard gave no immediate indication as to what the future might hold, instead choosing to thank those who helped him make such a success of his Stamford Bridge career.

Lampard said: "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 team-mates 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."

Lampard joined the Blues in 2001 after six seasons at Upton Park and went on to make 648 appearances and become the club's all-time top goalscorer with 211 in all competitions.

During his time at Stamford Bridge, Lampard won the Champions League, the Europa League, three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and two League Cups.

The England international formed a vital part of the spine of the team built by Jose Mourinho after the arrival of owner Abramovich alongside the likes of John Terry, Petr Cech and Didier Drogba.

Drogba left the Blues in 2012 and, while Terry has penned a new deal after an impressive season, Cech's place is likely to come under threat from the returning Thibaut Courtois.

Left-back Ashley Cole has left the club after his contract ran out and Mourinho appears to be reshaping his squad after a third-placed finish in last season's Barclays Premier League.

Lampard went on to pay tribute to the Chelsea supporters, adding: "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 honoured 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!"

England goalkeeper Ben Foster, who like Milner is currently with Lampard at England's pre-World Cup training camp in Miami, also paid a rich tribute.

"Not only as a player, as a person as well he is so professional," added Foster. "He always goes about his business very well.

"He has been a great servant for the club - and not only the club but England as well.

"He is a great guy and he's somebody that as an England team we are very lucky to have amongst us."

Chelsea posted a lengthy tribute to the departing midfielder on their website on Monday evening, looking back on his achievements and hailing him as one of their finest players of all time.

It concluded: "That Lampard has won more international caps while playing for Chelsea than anyone else in our history only strengthens the argument that he is one of the very greatest players to have represented the club.

"Any Chelsea supporter who has had the good fortune to watch Super Frank Lampard in full flow will know we have never seen his like in our midfield before, and we will be very blessed to again see his equal."

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