So how exactly did Lampard build himself to be spoken about in the same sentence as the greats of English Football?
Chelsea’s recent success in England has already been well documented. A mid table team, capable of some flashy and attractive football in the 90’s , Chelsea were never really challenging at the top of the league with fellow London rivals Arsenal and the ever great Manchester United the cream of the league. Most claim Chelsea’s turn of fortunes started when they were blessed with a certain Russian’s billions and that claim can be universally agreed on. However two decades, a Russian revolution and tons of success later the West London club’s best bit of business was the 11 million pounds they spent on a certain English midfielder, Frank Lampard.
Lampard rose to prominence and built himself as one of the best players in the world in the mid 2000s, in one of the most exciting and dynamic eras of English football. Many would say Paul Scholes was the greatest passer of the ball, I’d agree, though I’d also acknowledge Frank Lampard had more assists. Steven Gerrard was arguably the best all round midfielder of this era, I’d agree, again I’d acknowledge Frank Lampard had more assists, goals and trophies. Hard work and professionalism are the words his colleagues used to describe him. He was not blessed with the greatest football talent as a child but he worked day in day out to strive for greatness. On the announcement of his retirement from Football recently, the tributes from all over the football planet poured in. Chelsea teammate John Terry in his tribute said” You stayed out working on your finishing, 20 goals a year wasn’t good enough for you, every year you wanted 25,30 goals I love that about you I will miss you getting 4 cones and doing sprints after training setting the example for the kids in the academy”. His ex manager Jose Mourinho , who along with John Terry and Frank Lampard built the Chelsea dynasty labelled him as the best professional he’s worked with”.
His stats are downright unbelievable as a midfielder. If you go through the Premier League records charts, you’d see his name in the top 5 assist makers and goal scorers. The only other player in the league who shares the same record of scoring 10+ goals for 10 consecutive years is his England teammate Wayne Rooney. Lampard made goal scoring just one of the many features of his game. Over the course of his lengthy career he was played across the midfield- as a box to box player, no.10 and occasionally out of the wings. On a good day he was the best on the pitch, on a bad day he was maybe the 3rd or 4th best player on the pitch. His vision and skill seemed to improve each season too. Frank’s biggest detractors(yes they exist, even I wonder why) say that most of his goals were simple tap ins and penalties, the partial truth behind this statement is a paradox in itself it just shows how well he read the game unfolding in front of him. To say he did not have the capability of the spectacular is bizarrely narrow minded. Many of his goals left us mesmerised whether it was the left foot pile driver from distance against Everton in a cup final or the famous 0 degree angle chip against Barcelona , it would be foolish to try to list them out. There weren’t regular goals , these were hits which won leagues and cups at a frequent rate.
There are two games which come to mind when describing the genius of this player- the two legs against Barcelona in 2012. In the first leg Barcelona were bossing possession and were running rings around Chelsea. Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas were spraying the ball all around the park but it was Lampard who just needed one moment to change the game. Lionel Messi arguably at his peak at that time picked up the ball from midfield and drove towards the Chelsea goal however was quickly stopped in his tracks by Lampard. He launched a diagonal to Ramires who was off on his bike and that led to Drogba’s goal.
A few weeks later in the 2nd leg Chelsea seemed to have lost the plot. The centre back pairing of the team were no longer on the pitch — Gary Cahill injured and John Terry sent off. Barca were at their threatening best and it seemed only Petr Cech could keep Chelsea in the game. In added time of the first half Ramires picked up the ball in his own half and wisely passed it to Frank and went onto make a run beyond him and the half line. Lampard just needed a look over his shoulder after shrugging off a challenge from Javier Mascherano to dissect Barca’s center backs with an inch perfect through ball to the sprinting Ramires, Sure Lampard may not have bossed the midfield in these games but he just needed a few moments to spark them into life just like how he sparked the life into Chelsea back in 2001.
Image via Getty
Also by Kartik Lal