Frank Lampard admitted his Chelsea career could be drawing to a close after revealing he was not in talks with the club over a new deal.
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England midfielder Lampard appeared resigned to his fate after helping the Blues into the Club World Cup final in Yokohama, saying: "Maybe things don’t last forever."
The 34-year-old, whose 11 years’ service and third place in the club’s all-time list of scorers has seen him become a legend there, said: "There have been no talks about anything about an extension.
"The ball is in Chelsea’s court. I’m a Chelsea player, as simple as that. I’ve had a great, great time here.
"Maybe things don’t last forever. Although I want it to last forever, you have to be big enough to know what it is."
Lampard is in the final year of his contract and has been linked with moves to Los Angeles Galaxy, Chinese club Guizhou Rehne and a host of other clubs – even Arsenal.
Already short in midfield, Chelsea are unlikely to let him leave in January but he could sign a pre-contract agreement elsewhere.
Lampard added: "I’m not the kind of player to see out my time and sit with my bum on the bench too much. I want to be involved.
"That’s my character. I will keep trying to do that, whatever the circumstances.
"I can’t predict anything but I feel like I have two or three years at least in me at the top level. It is not for me to decide on this one.
"Whatever happens, I have had a great time at Chelsea. I am determined to play a few more years and see what pans out in the near future."
Lampard’s revelation will devastate Chelsea fans for whom he is one of their all-time heroes.
He was feted as such after coming off the bench in the Club World Cup semi-final win over Monterrey in Yokohama, travelling supporters displaying a banner which read: ‘Lamps, we want you to stay’.
Lampard said: "It was nice support.
"We could hear they had travelled all the way from London.
"I can’t say enough for the Chelsea fans, who have always been amazing for me and the team."
Thursday’s game was Lampard’s second appearance since he suffered a recurrence of a calf problem in October.
That compounded an injury-hit 2012 that might have convinced Chelsea his time at Stamford Bridge was up.
Lampard said: "I don’t know why the injury happened. I wanted to get it right, I didn’t want to come back and break down again."
Lampard’s absence co-incided with a Chelsea’s worst run in the Barclays Premier League for 15 years, something that contributed to Roberto Di Matteo being sacked as manager and replaced by Rafael Benitez.
And while Lampard was cheered by Blues fans tonight, there was no escape from the jeers and abuse for former Liverpool boss Benitez, despite him being so far from home.
"We know the atmosphere is different, maybe that doesn’t help us quite so much," Lampard said.
"Chelsea is the fans. You have to respect how they feel, you have to respect Robbie, and at the same time respect that Rafa is going to try to do the best job he can at Chelsea."
Winning Sunday’s Club World Cup final against Corinthians would certainly not harm Benitez’s popularity and would also see Lampard add to his own medal collection.
He has won three Premier Leagues, four FA Cups and two League Cups, before lifting the Champions League as captain last season.
Lampard insisted he was ready to start on Sunday, which would give him another chance to raise a major title as skipper.
"I don’t like to talk about lifting a trophy before we get there," he said.
"This is a final now, a very prestigious competition which the club have never won, which not many English teams have won.
"It is important for us as a club, we have a number of trophies available this year, to make sure we get our first one."