Frank Lampard: The greatest footballer of the Premier League era

Posted by Mark Worrall

On Tuesday night, barring calamity, Chelsea's greatest player, Frank Lampard, is set to pass another milestone in an illustrious career when he steps out onto the pitch in Kiev's splendid Olympic Stadium to win his 100th cap for England. The talismanic and indefatigable Blues midfielder may be 35 years old, but his passion for the game remains undimmed by the passage of time, and he continues to rewrite the record books almost every time he plays.

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At the start of the 2011-12 season, having been naively ear-marked for the knackers yard by former Chelsea coach Andre Villas-Boas, Lampard, ever the model professional, rode out the storm that saw Villas-Boas ridden out of town, and ended the campaign captaining the Blues to Champions League glory on a remarkable night in Munich. The following season, with the Stamford Bridge managerial merry-go-round spinning crazily away as usual, Lampard was the wise old head in the dressing room, keeping the youngsters focused as he inched his way closer to becoming Chelsea's record goal scorer whilst never appearing distracted by the hassle surrounding the negotiation of a new contract. As befitting one of the sport's genuine good guys, it all came right in the end for "Super Frank." He broke Bobby Tambling's long-standing record of 202 goals for Chelsea, secured a new deal for himself and once more captained the London side to European glory.

Mere mortals might have chosen to call it quits right there, to ride off into the sunset -- or possibly the Hollywood Hills -- and bask in the warm glow of accomplishment. But not Super Frank. Reunited in the summer with Jose Mourinho, who outlined that he'd use Lampard "sparingly," the dynamic midfielder has continued to roll back the years with sterling performances for club and country that keep the critics at bay and his supporters purring.

Lampard was just about to turn 23 in the summer of 2001 when then-Blues manager Claudio Ranieri made him his first English signing for Chelsea. Lampard arrived at Stamford Bridge on a five-year deal with West Ham picking £11 million in exchange for his services. And although Blues fans were impressed with his early performances, no one had any idea how the mild-mannered young man's career would pan out. A little more than 12 years later, a swift look at some of Frank's notable achievements for Chelsea and England tells a phenomenal story.

(Statistics are often open to debate, so let's use the base information provided by the official Chelsea website.)

Most goals scored: 204 (aggregate total)
Most Premier League goals scored: 144
Most FA Cup goals: 26
Most penalties scored by a single player: 48
Most consecutive league appearances: 164
Most appearances in UEFA competitions: 107
Most internationally capped player: 98 while at Chelsea (99 in total)
Highest-scoring England midfielder: 29
First and only midfielder to have scored 150-plus goals in the Premier League
First player to score 10 or more goals in 10 consecutive Premier League seasons

With 610 Chelsea appearances to his name to date (third on the Blues' all-time list behind Peter Bonetti and Ron Harris), Lampard's haul of medals (as a selected player) is unmatched by any other Stamford Bridge icon.

Premier League: 3
FA Cup: 4
League Cup: 2
Community Shield: 2
Champions League: 1
Europa League: 1

The term "glittering career" could have been coined for Frank Lampard.

It is Lampard's remarkable prowess in front of goal that settles many a lively debate about who the greatest player of the Premier League generation really is. Manchester United fans may champion the credentials of players like Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. Liverpool fans would tout Steven Gerrard. Arsenal would claim Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp, while Newcastle point to Alan Shearer. All of them fantastic talents, but none of them, in the final analysis, come close to Super Frank. And what of those goals? Ah, what memories.

For Chelsea, given the significance of the occasion, the brace against Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok on April 30, 2005, the day the Blues secured the topflight title for the first time in 50 years, are often spoken of as Frank's finest. The first saw Lamps latch onto a Didier Drogba knock-down, run rings around Trotters defender Vincent Candela and slot the ball past Jussi Jaaskelainen to open the scoring right in front of the travelling Blue and White army. The second was an absolute peach. Lampard, sprinting clear of the Bolton defence, used Ricardo Carvalho's thoroughbred run to his right as a decoy before dropping his shoulder, skinning Jaaskelainen and purposefully dispatching the ball into the net.

For England, the strike that lives longest in the memory is the goal that never was. Had current technology been in use during the 2010 World Cup Finals, then Frank Lampard's stunning, lofted shot that landed well over the Germany goal line, having beaten keeper Manuel Neuer all ends up, would have stood as a goal and gone on to be recognised for its brilliance. With it Lamps would now have 30 international goals to his name instead of 29. But such is life. Germany went on to win the match 4-1, leaving their supporters talking of divine retribution for the infamous Geoff Hurst goal of 1966.

How long Lampard can carry on for at the top doesn't really matter. What is significant right now is that he is still at the top, a ringing endorsement for the man himself and for everyone who believes in and continues to support him. Against the Ukraine on Tuesday night, Lampard will add to his legend: This True Blue isn't done just yet, and those of a sentimental nature may well back Frankie boy to score. Next summer's World Cup is a long way off, indeed, England have yet to qualify, but should they reach Brazil, in the curious world of football there's always a hope that something extraordinary might happen. A World Cup win for Roy Hodgson's boys and another winner's medal for Lampard to add to his collection? Anything is possible. That being the case, I believe Super Frank might finally hang his boots up.


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