Frank Lampard turned 35 over the pre-season, an age when the proverbial hanging-up of boots draws ever closer, if indeed it hasn’t crept up on you already. Other players of the ‘golden generation’ have already gone – Paul Scholes was 38 when he announced his (second) retirement earlier this year, as was David Beckham – and Michael Owen, struggling intermittently throughout his career with injuries, went at 33. At 33 years old, you would say Steven Gerrard is not the player he once was with Liverpool, but Frank comes off of the back of a superb season within a mediocre and at times turbulent year for Chelsea.
Frank managed to break Bobby Tambling’s record of 202 goals in Chelsea’s penultimate game of last season with a brace against Aston Villa, and he captained his side in a major European final for the second successive year, as Chelsea beat Benfica 2-1 in the Europa League final.
How many seasons does Frank Lampard have left in him? He is a player renowned for his fitness and professionalism, and Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea could spark the same dream partnership Chelsea fans enjoyed between 2004 and 2007, and a long continuation of Frank’s current form.
Regardless of how much longer Frank can go on, he has already cemented his position as Chelsea’s greatest ever footballer, and here’s why.
With Chelsea Frank Lampard has a long list of awards and trophies to his name. In more than 500 appearances for the club he has conquered both of Europe’s premier club competitions, captaining to victory in both finals, and through the years has put in memorable performances in the Champions League. He has won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and two Football League Cups. He has played for England in three major international tournaments, making the all-star team of Euro 2004, and is approaching 100 caps for his nation. In 2009 he was voted the Premier League’s player of the decade through official stats alone, and is three times Chelsea’s player of the season. In 2008, the season in which Chelsea finished runner-up in the Champions League final to Manchester United, Frank was named UEFA club midfielder of the year.
Speak to any Chelsea fan about Frank and they will ruminate on his level of professionalism. They will talk of the goals and the match-winning performances, but it’s Frank’s conduct that really lingers in the mind. Ever since his £11 million switch from West Ham in 2001, Frank has applied himself in the Chelsea shirt with integrity. His style of play reflects his manner off the pitch – intelligent and visionary. He has been loyal and committed to the club’s cause, and his ability to lift a game in an instant, and the morale of his teammates, shows true character and charisma. He has acted as stand-in captain on more than a few occasions when John Terry has been ruled out, and been hugely effective in doing so. In short, Frank shows true leadership.
Against the pressure of beating Bobby Tambling’s record of 202 goals before his contract expired, Frank managed it on the penultimate match of last season, becoming Chelsea’s all-time record goalscorer. He is one of only seven players and the only midfielder to have scored more than 150 goals in the Premier League, and scored over 20 goals for Chelsea in five successive seasons from 2005 to 2010. Compare this with Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta, who has never scored more than ten goals in a La Liga season, and Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo, the same age as Frank, who in 12 years with AC Milan and Juventus has never scored over nine goals in a Serie A season.
Few can forget some of the sensational goals Frank has scored – his surging runs and long, driving shots, his forays into the 18-yard box and almost forward-like instinct to pounce on a cross and nip the ball into the back of the net. Frank has scored goals that have sent crowds ecstatic, and silenced many others. As an English football-lover, I will always remember Frank’s goal against Bayern Munich in the 2005 Champions League quarter-final first leg at Stamford Bridge. He took Claude Makelele’s lofted pass into the six-yard box onto his chest, deftly spun, and volleyed the ball home into Oliver Kahn’s net. Spectacular.
I’m English. I’d prefer it if the majority of the Premier League’s greatest ever players were English/British, but the truth is foreign players have enriched the Premiership and transformed it into the one of the world’s greatest, if not the greatest. The Thierry Henry’s, Cristiano Ronaldo’s and Gianfranco Zola’s have electrified the English game, but at what expense to the national side? We always hear how young British players suffer because of the ‘influx’ of foreigners into the Premier League. Frank Lampard, along with Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Steven Gerrard, is a player the nation can be proud of, whether you support Fulham, West Ham or Manchester United. He is a talisman – an ambassador for the league and for attacking, box-to-box, high tempo English football. England may never win another international tournament again, or at least not for many years to come, but through players like Lampard – who have proven themselves on the global stage, and performed at the very top of their game for so long and so consistently – we can showcase the talent this country is more than capable of producing. The golden generation may have passed, but another crop will come. I’m sure of it.