John Terry has been forced into a climbdown after he broke ranks to question Chelsea's stance on the non-award of a new contract for his team-mate Frank Lampard. The club captain took to his Instagram account on Friday morning to state that he would be "devastated" if Lampard, as expected, were allowed to leave as a Bosman free agent in the summer, with Los Angeles Galaxy the midfielder's likely destination.
Terry was responding to quotes attributed to Lampard's agent, Steve Kutner, which said that the 34-year-old would depart at the end of the season. Kutner has denied making the remarks but that did not dilute the sentiment of the view that Terry put forward. Terry posted a photograph of himself and Lampard holding the FA Cup, accompanied by the comment: "Devastated is an understatement. We should retire the No8 in honour of Lamps." Terry also posted a series of hashtags, which included "hero", "legend" and "goalmachine".
Chelsea were surprised and annoyed that Terry should express such strong feelings on a delicate situation and Terry duly deleted his comments. He followed that with an explanation about how he had merely responded to the quotes attributed to Kutner, albeit underneath a photograph of Lampard with the Champions League trophy, which appeared to reinforce his original point.
Rafael Benítez, the interim Chelsea manager, who has inherited a situation that promises to be a major sideshow over the remainder of the season and which he has attempted to handle with diplomacy, could have been forgiven for cursing Terry. "I didn't know [about Terry's comments]," Benítez said. "I was surprised when they told me but that's it."
Benítez, who welcomed Demba Ba, the £7m signing from Newcastle United, to training for the first time, maintained that Lampard's professionalism would ensure that the situation did not prove disruptive. Lampard suggested last month that he was resigned to not getting a new deal and he is free to sign a pre-contract with an overseas club. In his capacity as the interim manager, Benítez has no say in whether the player ought to stay in the longer term.
"I know that in the next few months, we will maybe be talking about this issue," Benítez said. "But for me, he's a good professional, a good player, who is doing well and working hard. I cannot do anything else, just bring the best from him."
Ba has signed a three-and-a-half-year contract, worth £75,000 a week, after getting through a medical, despite his well-documented knee trouble. He is in contention for Saturday's FA Cup tie at Southampton and Wednesday's Capital One Cup semi-final first leg at home to Swansea City, although he is ineligible to play for the club in the Europa League, having previously featured in this season's competition for Newcastle. Benítez said that he saw Ba as an out-and-out No9, who would compete for a starting place with Fernando Torres.
"This club is at another level – it isn't West Ham or Newcastle," Ba said, at the risk of offending his former Premier League clubs. "They are both big clubs with a strong history but Chelsea is Chelsea and you cannot compare. It will be easier with world-class players around, who make the football look so easy. I am also happy to be back in London. It means everything to be here. I am a city boy, but I have two kids and a wife, and it is different.
"Yesterday, I was looking back and smiling to myself, saying: 'Yes, I've done it.' I feel very proud, not only for me but the people who supported me over the years – my agent, for instance, who has been there since I was 15 and my mum as well. When I skipped school, she was afraid but today I am very proud for my family."