Frank Lampard knows all about playing the role of the replacement. In the summer of 2001, his £11m unveiling at Stamford Bridge sparked the departure of modern-day favourite Dennis Wise to Leicester City. Twelve honours and 209 goals later, Lampard is firmly inscribed in Chelsea folklore.
At 35 years old, the England midfielder's power, if not influence in west London, are on the wane. Deep inside the final months of his one-year deal signed last May, Lampard and Chelsea face decision time over his future and despite Jose Mourinho being handed control over any extension the Portuguese boss is not guaranteed to side with his experienced campaigner.
In Nemanja Matic, the Serbian midfielder who is set to become Chelsea's first signing of the January transfer window after he stated he had played his final game for Benfica, the Blues have a definitive replacement for Lampard if not in soul, certainly in body.
The addition of the 25 year old leaves Chelsea overstocked in midfield, with Ramires, John Obi Mikel – who has become a stable of Mourinho's midfield, Michael Essien, David Luiz and the due to return Marco van Ginkel all able to fill Lampard's favoured withdrawn role.
Mourinho has already been quoted suggesting that not only will Chelsea's best chance to win the title come next season, but that he finds it difficult to improve those players over the age of 30. Ten of Chelsea's squad will be past that milestone by the start of next season making this the ideal time to start dropping the squad's average age.
Lampard, the oldest of Chelsea's outfield players may have featured in 18 league games this season but rapidly his influence is becoming less pertinent. From this month, Matic will likely have first dibs on a role alongside Mikel, who is becoming among the most reliable components at Chelsea.
And unless Mourinho has ambitions of retreating on his favoured formation which includes two holding midfielders, then Lampard's opportunities going forward are likely to be limited. Should he agree a one-year deal, his final season at Chelsea could be consigned of obligatory cameos and starts restricted to the League Cup.
That would be no way to end the career of undoubtedly the club's greatest ever servant. Lampard has consistently been linked with a move to Major League Soccer and though he may be omitted from England's squad to travel to the World Cup finals, those offers are unlikely to stem.
To prevent a PR own goal on Chelsea's part, Lampard would be better off either confirming his retirement in the summer or a move across the pond. The thought of releasing their finest ever player might cause disbelief among Chelsea fans, but it's one they might have to get used to.