Frank Lampard, to me, is Chelsea’s greatest player ever. Consistently for the last 12 seasons he has shown what an asset he is with his goals, his assists and most importantly his leadership. No matter what the occasion Lampard will deliver, he has shown that in the Premier League, in FA Cup finals and in both Champions League finals. And now he is just a couple of goals away from cementing himself as the best Stamford Bridge has ever seen when he becomes the club’s all-time top scorer.
Lampard wasn’t a cheap signing by any means, considering this was pre-Abramovich, he joined from West Ham in the summer of 2001 for a fee of £11m which was met by a lot of ridicule with many saying the midfielder was overrated. I am sure many of them, if not all, are glad they got it spectacularly wrong.
The 34-year-old really came into his own in the 2002/03 season; the year before Abramovich took over, scoring 10+ goals from midfield and cementing his place within the squad for the next season despite the tendency to go for a bigger name replacement with the newly acquired wealth. He remained a mainstay in Claudio Ranieri’s starting XI and to devastating effect as the Blues finished second behind Arsenal.
Then came the arrival of 'The Special One'. Lampard played yet another key role in the run to our first title since 1955 and thrived in the box-to-box role that Mourinho gave him. Perhaps his best moment, and certainly mine, would be the match at the Reebok. Two goals typifying his season, and indeed his career, and another 10+ league goal haul to boot.
I have said on many occasions that Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi are the two greatest players I have seen, but Lampard has something that they don’t. Throughout my formative years as a teenager, Frank Lampard was at Chelsea (in fact he was there throughout my teenage years) and every time either at school or in the playground I was asked ‘which footballer was I’ and every single time my response would be “Frank Lampard.” Whether it was trying shots from range or passing I wanted to be Frank Lampard, I don’t think there has been anyone who has influenced my life more than him. I would say Gianfranco Zola but I only caught the end of his Chelsea career but as magnificent as he was; Frank Lampard, to me, typified what I wanted to be - talented, hardworking and most of all determined.
That is what sets Lampard apart from some of his other contemporaries. He wasn’t blessed with a great amount of talent but he was determined to make the most of what he had and it is fair to say he has done it. His ability to keep fit and play 90 minutes week in week out, even now, is remarkable. I remember a few seasons ago he broke the most consecutive appearances for any Premier League player (including goalkeepers) and he wasn’t substituted or red carded once for those matches.
His remarkable record of scoring 10 leagues goals in 10 consecutive seasons further underlines his value to Chelsea. But it just isn’t his goals; his on-field leadership is also very vital. An excellent example would be the last day of the 2009/10 season when Chelsea needed to beat Wigan to seal the title. At 1-0 up, Chelsea won a penalty and Didier Drogba had thrown, what can be a described as, a strop as he wanted to be the Premier League’s golden boot winner. Lampard in the calmest of fashions said no took the penalty 2-0 up at half time and that all but sealed the title. He then spoke to Drogba following the penalty and in the second half, Drogba managed to score a hat trick (including a penalty which Lampard allowed him to take) and we all were happy.
Speaking of penalties, there is without a shadow of doubt in mind not a better penalty taker in world football at the moment better than Frank Lampard. Either at 5-0 up or 0-0 in the 90th minute, Lampard is guaranteed to convert his penalty. A perfect example would be the Champions League final against Bayern Munich, 3-1 down in the shoot-out if Lampard misses his penalty it is all but over for yet another season. He smashes it in without a blink of the eye and Chelsea go on to win the competition for the first time in their history.
That Champions League run, certainly the second half of it, Lampard really re-invented himself as more of a defensive player and it worked a treat. Against Barcelona the way he nonchalantly robbed Lionel Messi of the ball to set up Drogba’s goal was sensational and let us not forget that 2nd leg with 10 men having to captain the side after the sending off of John Terry, the second half was the most beautiful thing I have ever witnessed in football and to seal it with a Fernando Torres goal was a feeling that I cannot describe. He played a very similar role in the final, having to captain the side yet again and there wasn’t a more fitting sight than seeing both Terry and Lampard hoist up the European Cup together.
There have been criticisms about Lampard that if he doesn’t like a manager he goes and ‘complains’ to the media. Firstly these are unfounded and secondly even if they are true he hasn’t been wrong has he? Scolari, a lovely manager, just couldn’t do it at club level with complaints over training regimes being too lax shown over the hectic winter schedule. Then there was Andre Villas-Boas who in all respect was just too naïve for Chelsea. His decision to drop both Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard for the Napoli tie was baffling and it proved to be fateful - he ended up getting sacked and Chelsea won the Champions League. IF Lampard did help him get the boot then he can only be praised surely.
Lampard is now just four goals behind Bobby Tambling’s record of 202 goals and I wouldn’t put it past him achieving it before the month of April given the form he is in at the moment. A truly wonderful player to have watched over the years, and I sincerely hope he is at Chelsea next season. If it isn’t too rash to say, he is Chelsea Football Club’s greatest player ever.
Top 3 Lampard goals:
3) Bolton 2005 – the second that clinched the league
2) Bayern Munich 2005 – the lovely swivel, turn + left foot shot
1)??? 2013 – His 203rd Chelsea goal
This article originally appeared at Mirage Football