What was your favourite Frank Lampard moment in a Chelsea shirt? Was it the swivelled volley against Bayern Munich? Perhaps it was the outrageous chip over Victor Valdes or the two goals against Aston Villa that made him the club’s all –time top goalscorer and guaranteed Champions League football for the club in the following season? Maybe it was the slide rule ball for Ramires’ goal against Barcelona, the emotionally charged penalty against Liverpool or the stupendous pass with the outside of his boot to tee up Didier Drogba in a 6-0 rout of Manchester City in 2009? Or maybe it was that magnificent, historic brace against Bolton Wanderers that delivered the Blues their first title for half a century?
Frankly, the list could go on and on such is the litany of incredible achievements in Lampard’s career and I’m sure everyone will have their own personal highlight. And that is the point really. For all the talk about the sheer weight of goals against his name and the records stacked up in his honour, the real gauge of his stature actually lies not in ‘how many’ but in ‘when’. Much like his old partner in crime and another departed Stamford Bridge favourite, Drogba, Chelsea’s number eight always delivered when it really mattered, when the stakes were high and when the nerves were frayed. He has scored in a Champions League final, semi final, quarter final. He has scored at Wembley, at Camp Nou, at Old Trafford, at Highbury, at Anfield. And he has done it regularly in penalty shootouts. When the cause looked lost, Lampard was always on hand to steer Chelsea home.
Stamford Bridge has had the good fortune to have been graced by some magnificent players over the years and quite rightly the names of Roy Bentley, Peter Osgood, Gianfranco Zola and Didier Drogba have all been heralded as among the best to have ever worn the famous royal blue. Yet when trying to select the greatest I find it impossible to look past Super Frank. For all the virtues of the names mentioned above, the metronomic excellence of the Englishman sets him apart from the others. His permanence in the most successful era that the club has ever enjoyed ensures his name is uttered in the same breath as them but his phenomenal contributions set him apart from the rest.
As referenced earlier, Lampard’s greatness should not just be measured solely in the amount of goals he scored even though his staggering tally of 211 for the club might never be beaten and certainly not by a midfielder. His greatness lies in the fact that his goals were just one of several positive metrics. His 125 assists in all competitions is just as impressive as is his record of 164 consecutive Premier League appearances that exemplifies his incredible fitness record. Not bad for somebody that rival fans used to love to taunt as being overweight. Then there is the fact that he maintained such a high level for so long netting at least ten times in the top flight for ten years in a row. His leadership is another huge factor to consider with his influence particularly prevalent during the knockout stages of the glorious Champions League campaign of 2011/12; Andre Villas-Boas’ attempts to sideline him earlier in that season shrugged off in the process.
And to think that when Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003 and a deluge of glitzy, foreign talent poured into the club the received wisdom was that it would be Lampard that would make way for more illustrious names. Instead, the opposite happened. The consummate professional refused to take the easy option and rose to the challenge, the increasing quality in the squad bringing the very best out of him. But despite being named second only to a Ronaldinho at the peak of his powers for both the Ballon D’Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year awards in 2005 there were still doubters that felt he would be ousted in favour of the incoming Michael Ballack in 2006. The German, being the classy operator he was, played a full part in the Chelsea team during his four year stay in West London though such was Lampard’s importance to the side that Jose Mourinho and subsequent managers all found a way of fielding them both and extracting the most out of two of Europe’s best central midfielders.
To top it all off, Super Frank can add what the vast majority of other footballers cannot: charm and intelligence. Media friendly yet never bland, affable yet always ready to stand his ground (as personified when he rang in to James O’Brien’s LBC radio show to defend himself against scurrilous rumours being spread about his private life).
The complete package both on and off the field, Lampard has been a shining example for his profession and the perfect ambassador for Chelsea Football Club.
Quite simply, a legend.
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